This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor

This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor

4.4 9
by Susan Wicklund, Alex Kesselheim

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In This Common Secret Dr. Susan Wicklund chronicles her emotional and dramatic twenty-year career on the front lines of the abortion war. Growing up in working class, rural Wisconsin, Wicklund had her own painful abortion at a young age. It was not until she became a doctor that she realized how many women shared her ordeal of an unwanted


In This Common Secret Dr. Susan Wicklund chronicles her emotional and dramatic twenty-year career on the front lines of the abortion war. Growing up in working class, rural Wisconsin, Wicklund had her own painful abortion at a young age. It was not until she became a doctor that she realized how many women shared her ordeal of an unwanted pregnancy—and how hidden this common experience remains.

This is the story of Susan's love for a profession that means listening to women and helping them through one of the most pivotal and controversial events in their lives. Hers is also a calling that means sleeping on planes and commuting between clinics in different states—and that requires her to wear a bulletproof vest and to carry a .38 caliber revolver. This is also the story of the women whom Susan serves, women whose options are increasingly limited.

Through these intimate, complicated, and inspiring accounts, Wicklund reveals the truth about the women's clinics that anti-abortion activists portray as little more than slaughterhouses for the unborn. As we enter the most fevered political fight over abortion America has ever seen, this raw and powerful memoir shows us what is at stake.

Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
Gripping, deeply moving . . . a compelling memoir.
Eyal Press
The price of concealment is the central theme of Wicklund's memoir, This Common Secret, which offers a rare glimpse into the life of an abortion provider who, like her dwindling band of peers, learned to don an array of disguises over the course of her tumultuous and peripatetic career…in setting down her story, Wicklund has done something brave, not only by refusing to cower in the shadows but also by recounting experiences that don't always fit the conventional pro-choice script…Wicklund may never convince the protesters who demonized her that women should be free to make such decisions on their own. But in sharing her secrets, she has shown why there is much honor in having spent a lifetime attempting to ensure they do.
—The New York Times
Emily Bazelon
Susan Wicklund tells riveting stories about patients she has treated during nearly 20 years as an abortion provider…And Wicklund's sensitivity to the fraught nature of abortion, as some women experience it, makes her stories of the damage wrought by the "antis," as she calls them, more credible and vivid.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
A longtime abortion provider relates her personal history, describes the opposition's ferocity, chronicles the corrosive effects of her profession on her family life and portrays herself as a White Knight in a Dark World. In 1980, Wicklund was a 26-year-old single mother on welfare. When a mentor advised her to become a doctor, she debated and then tried it, discovered she was a top student and zipped through college and medical school. Settling on a career in women's health, she devoted herself to traveling around the Upper Midwest performing legal abortions at various clinics. Her peripatetic professional activities shot down two marriages and introduced into her life a level of stress that is difficult to fathom: screaming protestors, threats of violence, frightening phone calls. At times she resorted to disguises to get by picketers; she packed guns while she performed operations. Her professional life became just about her entire life. Her most satisfying experience was the Mountain Country Women's Clinic she established in Bozeman, Mont., but she was forced to close it after five years in 1998 to help her sick and aging parents while working part-time at a corporate-owned facility in St. Paul, Minn. She returned to full-time work in Montana after her mother's death. All this is either admirable or reprehensible, depending on your position on abortion, but Wicklund and co-author Kesselheim have no doubts: She is eligible for sainthood right now. All the dialogue-and there is quite a bit-portrays her speaking in reasonable, well-structured paragraphs while her enemies bray in ignorant ugliness. She understands every case before her; knows when to touch, when to cry; converts a fewnaysayers; confronts the angry with calm courage; never makes a mistake in surgery. Two postscripts-one by her daughter, another by Kesselheim-provide further, embarrassing testimonials. In a genre known for self-celebration, this is Self-Celebration. Agent: Kristine Dahl/ICM

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What People are saying about this

Maryanne Vollers
"This Common Secret is a riveting and heartbreaking memoir from the front lines of the abortion wars. Susan Wicklund is a true American hero. You will be amazed, enraged and inspired by her story."--(Maryanne Vollers, author of Ghosts of Mississippi, Lone Wolf, and co-author of Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole)

Meet the Author

Susan Wicklund has worked in the field of women's reproductive health for more than twenty years. For much of that time she has been on the front lines of the abortion war, both as a doctor and as a spokeswoman for women's rights. She has been interviewed by numerous leading media outlets, including 60 Minutes and "Fresh Air." Alan Kesselheim is a full-time freelance writer from Bozeman, Montana. This Common Secret is his ninth book.

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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The tears poured as I read Chapter 3,7 and 10.This book really puts it into prospective of the dealings of an abortion doctor day in and day out. The threats and the vilolation of the doctor, family and her patients. This doctor has a personal experience that leads her into a career that helps 10,000+ woman. Her passion for her career and the women she helps are what drives her. She is a compassionate and caring provider that puts her patients first. She is a true inspiration in women's reproductive health.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know that everyone tries hard to see the other side when it comes to abortion, but to me it is simply not moral for abortion to be illegal. I applaud the author so much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MT_Supporter More than 1 year ago
Where ever you stand, you need to read this book, so many ladies have had to make a hard choice and then are forced by others to feel badly about it. This book stands up for all of them and shows that this truely is a choice and should ONLY be between a Doctor and woman. Dr. Wicklund is a wonderful wonderful person and we could all learn from her huge loving heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is from a doctor's point of view concerning women's ability to create life and the choices she should have available to her should the pregnancy be or become unwanted--for whatever reason. Whether one is pro or anti-choice, I believe this book is a fair portrayal of what women are entitled to have available so that she can make an honest and informed decision as to whether she should receive an abortion or to carry her baby to full term.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I felt that 'This Common Secret' was an informative read for anyone who has undergone an abortion, is thinking about an abortion, or is simply just curious about abortion'like I am'. Dr.Wicklund highlights the medical training she went through, the reasons why she decided to make a career out of performing abortions, and she describes in detail the harassment that abortion doctors and their families face in this country every day at work and in their personal lives. Although I would consider myself to be a pro-lifer except for the most dire of circumstances, I can see why Dr. Wicklund feels that there is a need for her services and her training in this country today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was blown away by this book. I believe a lot of women take this right for granted, the right to have an abortion. I was not aware of the sacrifices that abortion doctors, like Dr. Wicklund, have made in order for women to have that right. Dr Wicklund, we are forever in your debt.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr Wicklund demonstrates with compassion and respect the decisions and choices many, many women face. This book should be a must read for all those who do not trust women to be in control of their own lives.Dr Wicklund is a hero to many women in the feminist movement and should be honored for her years of work