Saturday, May 31, 2008

This Common Secret Book Review

I've recently finished reading This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Dr. Susan Wicklund. I can't remember which blog recommended it, but I've had it on my reading list for months and it finally made it to my library list last week. Ok, after a little searching, I found the Salon article that suggested the book in the first place, and a recent Feministing post by Miriam about raising funds for Dr. Wicklund's new Montana clinic.

This memoir covers Wicklund's adult life, from her own abortion in 1976, through her decision to go to college to become a doctor, working with several clinics in the Midwest and Montana, up through present day. She writes about her own life and the patients she's encountered over her 20 year career as an abortion provider. There are lots of women in lots of different situations she helps though counseling, and sometimes, through abortions.

I thought her emphasis on patient care over medical procedures was reassuring, especially in a world run by HMOs and the bottom line. Wicklund describes the process she goes through with each patient she sees, beginning with counseling sessions where she makes sure all options are presented and thoroughly discussed and only proceeds with abortion when it's absolutely the right decision. As a pro-choice reader, I'm glad knowing that abortion providers aren't just there to do abortions, but to help women discern if that's the right choice for her. Wicklund says that her biggest fear is having a patient regret her abortion, and after reading her book, I can see why.

Another aspect of the book talks about Wicklund's experiences with anti-choice protesters. They marched in front of her clinic and house, followed her at airports, and even blocked her driveway to prevent her from leaving. She describes at great length the fear anti-choice protesters created in her life, from the people outside her own clinic to the violence done against abortion providers in other states. Wicklund worked in Wisconsin and Minnesota, states I've lived in/currently live in, so it's a bit frightening to know that there are fanatic people in my midst.

She chose This Common Secret as the title of her book because often times, abortion is a secret topic, a "shameful" past people don't talk about. Wicklund tells stories of people in her own family affected by illegal abortions, about the women in her community who she's done abortions for, about anti-choice women who get an abortion one day and then picket the next. Women who have had abortions are not alone - many women have one and if we stopped stigmatizing it, it wouldn't be such a taboo secret.

Overall, I found Wicklund's memoir touching and interesting. I recommend it to everyone - especially to people who are anti-choice. I think it'd be interesting to read it from an opposite political stance, something I myself don't do nearly enough. So here's my challenge - if any anti-choice commenter on here wants to read This Common Secret and discuss it with me, I'll read an anti-choice book of your recommendation and we'll discuss that too. I think it's easy to read books you already agree with; it's harder to pick up something with a completely different worldview than your own.

No comments: