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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  2,214 ratings  ·  363 reviews
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published December 31st 2007 by PublicAffairs (first published December 7th 2007)
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Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
This story exposes all the grays.

I'm so happy this book was written, yet am sad that it had to be. Whether we like it or not, abortions have always been around.

This is the story of one abortion provider. She treats women in the midwest and west, areas of the country that face challenges to abortion that I'm not used to thinking about, living here in NY.

I am a pro-choice, feminist activist, just to lay that out on the line. I was actually a little put off by some of the boundaries that the doc
Anyone who has spent any more than about five or ten minutes with me will understand that I am pro-choice. This does not necessarily mean pro-abortion, or anti-life. This means that I believe the choice to receive an abortion is up to each and every individual woman, since it involves her body. It does not matter if I agree with her reasons for choosing an abortion; it only matters that I allow her to make the decision herself (without pressure from anyone else) and, if necessary, assist her in ...more
Jessica Valenti
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Too often when we think of abortion we think of the legislation, policy and politics surrounding it. And when it does get personal it's generally the woman having the abortion who we hear from...the provider tends to get lost. So I really loved hearing from an abortion provider - as hard as her story was to hear, sometimes. This is a book that reminds you how grateful we should be to abortion providers who literally risk their lives to make sure women have reproductive choices. ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Dr. Susan Wicklund worked in women's reproductive health for over twenty years. In that capacity, she was often the only doctor who would perform abortions in many areas of midwestern or rural states, such as Montana and Minnesota. Dr. Wicklund's memoir is written in a clear and almost matter of fact manner, but the story it tells is anything but dry and academic. Her book puts a human face on the issue of abortion in America today. The book provides unforgettable portraits of the women who get ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Quick read.

Two new to me things stand out:
1. I didn't know what the procedure of an actual abortion was until I read this book (it didn't get so very technical). It is amazing what a little de-rhetoric-ing looks like.
2. I want to volunteer, support, speak up, protect, help women and abortion providers. What shitty working conditions the pro-lifers and our legislature have created for an essential service. Unfortunately, the opportunities to be supportive are plentiful thanks to this War on Wome
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-16
This is a thoughtful and engaging look at a miserable situation. A beautiful example of just how intertwined the personal and the political truly are.
Not terribly relevant but Wicklund's approach to doctor-patient relations... I wonder if that's normal re abortions? I strongly believe that doctors should be car mechanics for humans. You tell them what you want done; they use skills to identify and resolve those issues. Of course, there are a few more evaluations involved - whether it's an informed choice, whether it's an autonomous choice - but I don't know that Wicklund's touchy feels let's have four talks before I've decided that you've dec ...more
Christina Brummett
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pro-choice? Read it. Anti-abortion? Unsure? Don't care. Read it anyway. This plain-spoken, gripping tale of Susan Wicklund's harrowing life as an abortion provider will remind you of the reality behind the black-and white sounding battle for women's reproductive health going on in our country and around the world. I can't recommend this book enough. I'll definitely be buying at least one copy for myself and possibly a couple more for donating... ...more
Sarah Ames-Foley
"I know exactly what kind of work you do, and it is a good thing. People like you do it safely so that people like me don't murder their best friends."

This is an incredibly powerful book that quickly puts to rest the most common misconceptions about abortions. If you believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion at any stage is murder, this isn't going to change your mind but then again, nothing is. If you hold any other reservations about abortion regarding the process and its o
Ana Nehan
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I should have learned by now to keep myself from discussing abortion with most people. Simply because most people have absolutely no grasp of the reality of abortion, nor do they try to inform themselves. This Common Secret is one of the best books I've read on the subject, and Dr. Susan is a true example of a strong, admirable woman. To face everything she did because she believed it was her job to give women the choice they deserve is proof of her bravery and dedication. To read about how she ...more
Feb 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow... this book was hard to read at times, especially when the author talks about all that she went through to do her job and to help the women who needed her. I think that reading her story just reinforces how important a woman's right to choose is, and makes us grateful that there are doctors out there who are as dedicated and compassionate as Dr. Wicklund. ...more
Jan 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abortion
Susan Wicklund manages to portray herself as a hero constantly tormented by pro-life activists – and if she's telling the truth, their behavior was horrible. But I suspect she isn't – because she lies about so many things. She claims that 5000 women died every year before Roe V Wade, when the CDC reported 39 deaths in 1972, the year before.. The cofounder of NARAL, one of the first pro-abortion organizations in America, admitted that they made up those figures. Wicklund also claims that late-ter ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to read this book for over 4 years now. Since my daughter used it as reference for her senior seminar project. Reading her pen scribbled notes all over in the margin made me proud. I'm always proud of her but her strong yet sensitive convictions about this book and her bravery of picking a pro-choice topic in a mainly conservative location we lived at that time showed her strength. I had many post it notes as I read, intending to refer to them as I wrote this review. In the end ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
This woman is one tough cookie and an admirable fighter in the controversial battle over a woman's right to choose, and I have great respect for the work that she has done. The world would be a better place with more people like Susan Wicklund.

The book, however, could be tighter. The narrative veers off at times and is sometimes clunky when she starts lecturing the reader.
Eva Marie
Apr 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: a-nonfiction
I had many problems with this book, some of which I'll get into in a moment. First I want to say that I rated this book, not based on my own opinion and thoughts, but on the actual book itself, the way it's written, the amount of talent the author has for writing, etc. Had I rated it on my own personal opinions it would have gotten nothing.
Now I'll get into some of the things that bothered me about Wicklund. At first, while still reading and thinking of my future review of this, I thought I wou
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the true story of Susan Wicklund’s life as a doctor who specialized in women’s health and who travelled extensively, at risk to her and her family’s life, performing abortions.

She starts the story with the day that she came home to tell Flower Grandma (a name her daughter had given her maternal grandmother) that she was working as an abortion doctor. She had to do this, because she was about to be interviewed on a segment of “60 Minutes” and she knew that Flower Grandma watched “60 Minut
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
As Susan Wicklund points out, rarely is abortion discussed beyond political rhetoric based on untruths, despite the fact that 40% of American women have had/will have an abortion in their lifetime. As she more astutely speculates, perhaps the freedom of nearly half the population of the country to make personal medical decisions would not be constantly endangered if men, instead of women, were the child-bearing half of the species. Are there any other surgeries that are the subject of divisive p ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book, like this doctor, is amazing. I read it in one sitting, and it brought me to tears many times over. As a doctor providing legal abortions in clinics across the midwest and west, Dr. Wicklund tells of the constant struggle to ensure she's acting in every patient's best interest. She is a workaholic, and is also struggling to maintain her marriage and her identity as a mother, while flying three to four times a week all over the country. Finally, the threat of violence against abortion ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
This is a very powerful and interesting book. Wicklund really lays it all out there for the reader, including diary entries. For someone who mostly reads irony filled fiction, the sincerity of this book made me a bit uncomfortable at times. The focus is on abortion of course, but it was also really interesting for me to just read a story about a woman going through med school and building a career regardless of her speciality. I realized that we don't get to see that much - how a career path can ...more
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. Everyone in the pro-choice community should read this. If you're open-minded enough, those who are against abortion should also read this book to gain an insight into what the radical anti-abortion forces are doing to the lives of providers. My full review is on my site. ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: womens-interest
I cannot come up with any sort of review for this... I think some of the anti's need to read this to understand WHY the doc does what she does. I did not say condone, or agree, but just try to understand this woman and her patients. ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel-research
Excellent, excellent book written by an amazing and compassionate doctor. A must-read for anyone interested in reproductive rights, no matter which side of the fence you're on. ...more
Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)
This was a fantastic read!! Susan Wicklund is an amazing doctor and I didn't realize just how isolating an experience being an abortion doctor could be. I worked as a counselor at an abortion clinic for a period of time and I was lucky that we didn't get any protestors, ever. Not sure if it was because we were in a building with a lot of other businesses (including a hospital) or because even the clinic website was vague about the exact location (on purpose), but either way, we were lucky. I can ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
No matter where you land in the abortion debate (which... shouldn't even be a fucking debate but I digress), you should read this book. Keep in mind that I don't typically cotton to memoirs, which makes my endorsement all the more powerful.

Dr. Susan Wicklund is a mother, a feminist, an outdoors enthusiast, and an abortion doctor. She has dedicated her life and career to providing compassionate care to pregnant women and girls, to offering options and sensitive counsel, to advocating for her pat
Mark Hall
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor is much like as it is named; Susan Wicklund's story of being an abortion doctor in the 90s and early aughts, dealing with the growing violence of the "pro-life" and her on-going compassion for the women she helps. It is a chilling, powerful read. She was inspired to enter medicine by a family friend, and inspired to enter women's health, and abortion services, by a legal-but-impersonal abortion she had when younger. Galvanized by her own grand ...more
Christy S
Dec 20, 2009 rated it liked it
This isn't great writing, nor is it a book about the many perspectives and issues surrounding abortion. It is, however, a complete and compelling story of one woman's process becoming an abortion doctor, trying to live her life and raise a doughter amidst protest, violence, and controversy, and fine-tuning what this work could or should look like in true service to women.

The title gave me the impression that it would be more about the women from all walks of life who have found themselves termi
If you're not already horrified by the state of women's health affairs in the United States, this will do it. From reading Dr. Willie Parker's book (highly recommend as well), I know that providing abortion services is far more dangerous for the physician than any woman recieving those services. Dr. Wickland experienced it all too. At one point in the book, she refers to Dr. Tiller in the present tense... Dr. Tiller was killed two years after this was written. The fear she feels every day is abs ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This Common Secret is an emotionally intense read filled with details about the challenges of being an abortion provider in the US. There were many lows and some highs to Doctor Wicklund's story. I found the ending of the book to be satisfying. If you are a person seeking out perspectives on the abortion issue, this would be a great resource to begin with. While the content is emotionally challenging there is very little medical jargon and the narrative flows smoothly from chapter to chapter.

I s
Amy Freeman
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I was about 20 pages from the end when I started skimming. This book is very interesting, but I would recommend that anyone who reads it keeps up their momentum. I think that's where I went wrong.

I enjoyed learning about Wicklung's practice. I was left in a sour mood every time I read about the poor treatment she endured.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is pro-choice. I would also recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand more about abortions and those who preform them.
Kirsten Johanson
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Susan's book gives a thoughtful retelling of her life as a physician. Her stories provide insight into the lives of the women seeking abortions in this country. I found her approach to be so compassionate and beautiful, while also being an objective reflection of the poor state of health care and the work that is left to do. ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The F-word: January NON-FICTION selection THIS COMMON SECRET 47 74 Mar 25, 2016 05:18PM  
Repro Reads: Dr. Wicklund's abortion experience 4 10 Jan 26, 2014 07:28PM  
Repro Reads: * Articles about Dr. Wicklund 3 7 Jan 25, 2014 10:11AM  
Repro Reads: Flower Grandma 1 6 Jan 23, 2014 01:54PM  

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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." ...more

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31 likes · 8 comments
“It’s taboo in our society to discuss abortion on anything less than a political level, but I know the truth. Someone close to each and every one of us has had an abortion. The experience is common, but I do not believe it is taken lightly. Women who have exercised their right to choose never forget.” 7 likes
“I could see the crowd gathered there, one hundred of them, I guessed, maybe more. All people who hated me, whose only objective was to keep me from my work. Under the pious, prayerful guise of religion, they were after control: Control of me. Control of the women coming to the clinic for help. Control of anyone who believed differently than they.” 4 likes
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