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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor

Abortions are a much more common procedure in America than most people think, says Susan Wicklund. An abortion provider for the past two decades, Wicklund claims that 40 percent of American women have abortions during their childbearing years. She has see

This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund with Alan Kesselheim (PublicAffairs, $25)

Abortions are a much more common procedure in America than most people think, says Susan Wicklund. An abortion provider for the past two decades, Wicklund claims that 40 percent of American women have abortions during their childbearing years. She has seen how varied women’s circumstances can be. Once she refused to abort a baby who was later murdered by its father. Once she performed an abortion for a rape victim who learned, too late, that the fetus had been conceived in a loving relationship before the attack. She has seen pro-life demonstrators return to the picket lines outside her clinics within a week of abortions they elected to have themselves.

The “riveting” stories in Wicklund’s valuable new memoir begin with a compelling bit of personal history, said Emily Bazelon in The Washington Post. The Wisconsin-bred author was an unmarried 22-year-old when she underwent a “ghastly” abortion in 1976; she was an impoverished 26-year-old single mother when she decided to pursue a college degree. Eventually, she committed to her career as a roving full-time abortion provider. Some of her horror stories sound “a bit too perfectly exemplary to be true,” said Jonathan Leaf in the New York Post. Skeptical readers will also notice that Wicklund’s own family suffered from her conviction that her work was helping to create healthier homes. She admits that the 100-hour weeks she spent traveling among clinics in three rural states ruined her second marriage and forced her daughter to navigate adolescence with scant help from Mom.

That kind of honesty is what makes This Common Secret such a brave book, said Eyal Press in The New York Times. Wicklund’s stories aren’t always artfully told. But in sharing the heartbreak of that rape victim and revisiting similar experiences that depart from “the conventional pro-choice script,” she is exhibiting the same fortitude that allowed her to continue her practice when death threats were pouring in and other abortion doctors were being murdered. To Wicklund, acknowledging that an abortion can prove a tragic personal choice isn’t an argument for stiffer government restrictions on the procedure. The very difficulty of the decision, she believes, is why every woman considering abortion must be supported in making “an informed, truly independent choice.”

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