Artorius Castus

Memoirs of an abortion doctor

Posted in Uncategorized by Patrick Truax on March 6, 2008

WW book review

By Kris Hamel

Published Mar 1, 2008 12:53 AM
“This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor,” by Susan Wicklund with Alan Kesselheim. PublicAffairs Books, 2007.

Dr. Susan Wicklund is a rare breed of U.S. physician—she performs abortions. Her memoir is at once warm and poignant, terrifying and cold. It is an intensely personal and political chronicle of a career spanning two decades, set against the backdrop of anti-choice protests and violence that impacted Wicklund’s job and life on a daily basis. The title “This Common Secret” refers to the fact that 40 percent of women in the U.S. have had abortions.

Wicklund decided to dedicate herself to providing reproductive health services, including abortions, after she had an abortion in 1976 that left her scared and humiliated. A single mother, she overcame many obstacles to complete college and medical school, yet her resolve to help women in a compassionate, caring manner never wavered. Although learning to perform abortions was excluded from the medical school curricula, she sought out the necessary training.

In the 1980s Wicklund began her medical career, working 100-hour weeks and traveling thousands of miles by car and plane to provide services to women in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. She bought a clinic in Bozeman, Mont., where she spent five years providing reproductive care and abortions.

Dr. Wicklund’s belief in listening to women, hearing their stories and treating them with dignity and compassion before, during and after their abortions, runs throughout her book: “Each patient is unique. Each has her own set of fears, her own hopes and dreams and emotions. Every woman has personal reasons behind her choice that are hers alone. Nothing is routine about any of this for them. … I couldn’t describe the common reasons for abortions, couldn’t sketch the typical patient.”

Some of Dr. Wicklund’s patients faced an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape or incest. Some were victims of domestic violence. Some were young women in high school or college. Many were rural and poor and had gone to great lengths, involving cost and travel, to obtain an abortion. Wicklund always considered the financial and other hardships of her patients, and believed the inability to pay was not a reason to deny women her services.

In her book she describes having to comply with laws such as the 24-hour waiting period between counseling and performing an abortion, parental consent and notification laws, and having to read a non-medically based script to her patients as mandated by state laws.

Dr. Wicklund’s compassionate stories of caring for her patients, however, are matched in full by other stories taking place simultaneously—stories of anti-choice protests, physician murders and everyday violence against clinics and abortion providers.

Because of constant threats by hordes of anti-choice protesters, Wicklund’s job required her to travel in disguises, take convoluted routes, wear a bulletproof vest and even carry a gun. Protesters followed her everywhere and set siege to her home, placing concrete-filled barrels in her driveway to try to prevent her from going to work. They followed her daughter to school and placed “wanted” posters around town.

Wicklund was verbally and physically assaulted by anti-choice protesters and stalked, threatened and harassed on a daily basis. But they never succeeded in stopping her work. Alan Kesselheim, the book’s co-author, provided her safe haven for a year at his family’s home in Montana.

Wicklund describes the barriers to choice that are increasing all the time. She reminds us that 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider and that access is more restricted with each passing year: “Between 1982 and 2000, the number of abortion providers in the United States declined from 2,900 to 1,819, a drop of 37 percent, and the trend has continued since. In 2004, almost 60 percent of abortion providers were more than fifty years old.”

Dr. Wicklund’s memoir puts a woman’s face on the reality and difficulty of providing abortions in the U.S. And she advocates throughout for full reproductive justice for women. She emerges as a pro-choice activist and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

Hamel is a founding member of DANFORR—the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights. And yes, she has had an abortion.

I feel like taking a shower after reading this. Normally, we post stuff from the Workers World, whatever there are called, for fun and entertainment. Laughing at American Communists is good therapy. But this article highlights the depths and depravity to be found in Communism. I posted the whole thing so you guys wouldnt have to go to the site. And if the commies at world workers, or whatever they are called, dont like it, they can sue us…


One Response

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  1. Patrick Truax said, on March 6, 2008 at 6:18 am

    My God. The article reads like this is normal behavior and thinking. Well, I guess we all knew life was cheap under socialism..

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