Few issues polarize America like abortion. 40 years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade the abortion debate still impacts our political landscape. Pundits are forever voicing opinions on this divisive issue while politicians proudly proclaim their abortion views in order to solidify votes from their respective constituencies. Conventional wisdom dictates your opinion of abortion in no small way determines where you exist on the political spectrum and says much about your religious affiliation. Evoking passionate feelings one way or the other, it’s usually seen as a hot bottom issue with little, if any room for compromise.
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Susan Wicklund’s 2007 memoir This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. Wicklund spent decades as an abortion provider, mostly in small town middle America. This Common Secret is not a manifesto or a position paper. It’s her straight-up and honest account of her years in the trenches as a women’s reproductive health physician performing abortions.
I read this book months ago and there are things about it that still stick with me. Of the cases she describes, most the women were scared and all were vulnerable, seeing abortion as their last option. All sought to keep it a secret, hence the book’s title. (Wickland recalls an evening she spent at a local tavern. While dancing on the dance floor several of her former patients began dancing around her as a form of unspoken tribute.) Some of her patients enlisted her services even though the procedure conflicted with their stated religious beliefs. (This included one female anti-abortion protester.) Encountering one patient who didn’t want an abortion but felt pressured due to because of economic reasons, Wicklund convinced a local anti-abortion activist to help cover the woman’s hospital bills so she could give birth to the child. She also dealt with gut-wrenching cases of rape and incest.
No matter your views on abortion, I’d encourage you to read This Common Secret. In her memoir Wicklund comes across as sane, experienced and compassionate. It’s also an excellent book and just like the recently featured The Unlikely Disciple it could very well end up making my 2014 Best Nonfiction List. And just like The Unlikely Disciple I highly recommend it.