*Many thanks to our interns for planning the book club and to Amber for her write-up below:
“So much about abortion is kept secret and hidden. What the abortion entails, for starters. How women are counseled and treated inside a clinic. How a medical career like mine is marginalized and exposed, and what effects that marginalization has on a doctor’s family life, personal safety and daily routine.
For me to be visible and exposed is dangerous. Abortion doctors have been murdered by fanatics who call it justifiable homicide. Clinics and doctor’s homes have been bombed and burned. The danger is very real. Besides, in telling my story I am forced to reveal my mistakes, my regrets, my failures to follow rules.”
So writes Susan Wicklund in an essay describing her decision to write This Common Secret, a memoir spanning her life as a woman who experiences a terrible abortion, a single mother who works her way through college and medical school, and an abortion provider and pro-choice activist that risks her life to protect women’s rights.
Yesterday, a group of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia supporters met to discuss the first half of Dr. Wicklund’s book. It was a discussion that was thought provoking and inspiring. Our group was diverse—we had teenagers and twenty-somethings and parents of teenagers and twenty-somethings, we originated from across the country and even the world, and we grew up in very different communities and families with very different beliefs which resulted in a discussion that we all contributed unique perspectives to and all learned something from.
This Common Secret is a powerful book. It moves beyond the political aspects of abortion and focused on the personal aspects—the women, all so different, who have abortions; the doctors, whose motivations and actions vary widely; the protestors, some of whom pray quietly, others who shout and yell, and still others who find it acceptable to stalk, threaten, and physically attack providers. Even more interesting are the everyday people who are not affiliated with any movement or activism—the man who is always on the same commuter flight, the neighbor who is quietly pro-life but appalled at the harassment Dr. Wicklund suffers, the utility employee who is asked to bend the rules to help Dr. Wicklund protect herself, and, most powerfully, the Doctor’s own grandmother.
The book reminds us how important our work is to real people when sometimes we get lost in the politics. The book reminds us how much providers sacrifice. The book reminds us how common the secret of abortion is and how powerful talking about it can be.
The discussion led us to a current discussion of abortion that just aired on Friday Night Lights. If you’re interested in reading more about that, check out the NARAL Blog for Choice and the New York Times article!
Our next meeting is on July 25 in Arlington from 3-5 pm. We’ll discuss the book in general, focusing on the second half, and will have some local activists there to share their experiences with us. Email Claire@naralva.org to rsvp and we’ll send you the details.
And, one of our fabulous interns also compiled a list of just a few other ‘Choice-related’ books that are well worth a read:
- Abortion & the Politics of Motherhood
- Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict
- The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service
- How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex
- The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade
- The Vagina Monologues
- Abortion and Life
- Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America
- Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade
- The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women –
- Back Rooms: Voices from the Illegal Abortion Era
- Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
- Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion
- The Making of Pro-life Activists: How Social Movement Mobilization Works