For a quarter-century I’ve been scourged by critics hereabouts on the grounds of presumed communism, atheism – and the worst condemnation of all – humanism.
Communist? Only the most stunted of imaginations could contrive charges of communist sympathies in an entrepreneur and small businessman, and yet this idiocy surfaces again and again. I'm a social democrat in the classic European mold, without a political party in this country to represent me, and so be it; I vote against the fascists, and have a clear conscience.
Atheist? Yes. We can discuss that aspect another time, although I suppose that a rejection of the supernatural leads somewhat naturally (pun intended) to the final slur, that of secular humanism.
Humanist? Absolutely and indeed, and in fact, I subscribe to the following, as worded by the Council for Secular Humanism:
Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.
Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness … equality, justice for all … in the here and now, in a world defined far more by gray areas than black and whites connected to the unverifiable … where we must negotiate and compromise with each other in human communities … all these notions underpin my personal conception of humanism. You’re free to disagree.
To me, no one issue better illustrates the struggle for equality on the part of fully half the world’s population than the right of reproductive choice for women. While a woman’s freedom to choose the option of abortion may well represent the extreme component of reproductive choice, a clear majority of Americans believe that it should remain just such a legalized, regulated, and defined option.
I support a woman's right to choose.
Seldom does NAC publish full articles from other sources, but today is an exception.
THIS COMMON SECRET: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor.
By Susan Wicklund with Alan Kesselheim.
A review in the New York Times Book Review by Eyal Press, a contributing writer at The Nation, and the author of “Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America”
One morning in January 1991, Susan Wicklund arrived at work wearing a heavy coat of makeup and a curly auburn wig pulled over her half-inch-long gray hair. It was a get-up worthy of a double agent, and it succeeded in helping Wicklund slip unnoticed across enemy lines, though not without feeling as if she’d stepped into a version of “The Twilight Zone.” “Why do I have to do this?” she scrawled in her journal afterward. “WHY?”
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. Wicklund grew up in a small community in rural Wisconsin populated by gun owners and deer hunters. She went on to become a reproductive health specialist who helped staff abortion clinics in five states, mostly in the Midwest, places that, by the late 1980s, had become veritable combat zones.
Wicklund’s daughter, Sonja, who contributes an epilogue in which she recalls breaking down every time she learned that another abortion provider had been shot, saw her mother as a pillar of strength who never let the wrath of anti-abortion protesters faze her. As it turns out, the stoic demeanor was as deceptive as the wig. The unstinting pressure — “Wanted” signs bearing her photo posted up around town, throngs of demonstrators amassed outside the places where she worked — often drove Wicklund to tears. She took to carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver. She watched what she said to strangers, sometimes even to relatives, refusing for years to tell her grandmother she performed abortions out of fear she’d disapprove. When Wicklund finally divulged the secret, her grandmother shared one of her own: at 16, her best friend had gotten pregnant, most likely following an act of incest. She’d tried to help her end the pregnancy with a sharp object, and watched her bleed to death.
“This Common Secret” does not attempt to offer a comprehensive account of the abortion conflict, much less an evenhanded one. Though Wicklund claims to respect those who harbor moral qualms about abortion, her book makes no effort to engage critics of Roe v. Wade. The narrative has a somewhat slapdash feel — a journal entry on one page, a flurry of statistics on the next — and, though recounted in the first person, lacks a distinctive voice, perhaps because the book was written with a co-author.
Yet 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. Before receiving her medical training, Wicklund had an abortion herself. She was asked no questions, offered no advice and left the clinic feeling violated. Years later, she terminated the pregnancy of a woman who’d been raped and wanted an abortion. Afterward, Wicklund examined the product of conception and discovered the pregnancy had occurred two weeks earlier, meaning it was not a consequence of the rape. Both she and the patient were horrified.
Opponents of abortion might view such episodes as proof that abortion is evil. For Wicklund, they are what drove and inspired her to help each woman she encountered make an informed, truly independent choice. At a clinic she ran in Montana, this meant placing the emphasis on counseling, which sometimes strengthened a patient’s resolve to terminate her pregnancy and other times led her to reconsider and bear the child instead. 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.