Telling the stories behind the abortions

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Registered: 06-03-2007
Telling the stories behind the abortions
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Fri, 11-09-2007 - 6:26pm

November 6, 2007
Telling the Stories Behind the Abortions

By CORNELIA DEAN
Dr. Susan Wicklund took her first step toward the front line of the abortion wars when she was in her early 20s, a high school graduate with a few community college credits, working dead-end jobs.

She became pregnant. She had an abortion. It was legal, but it was ghastly.

Her counseling, she recalls, was limited to instructions to pay in advance, in cash, and to go to the emergency room if she had a problem. During the procedure itself, her every question drew the same response: “Shut up!”

Determined that other women should have better reproductive care, she began work as an apprentice midwife and eventually finished college, earned a medical degree and started a practice in which she spends about 90 percent of her time on abortion services. Much of her work is in underserved regions on the Western plains, at clinics that she visits by plane.

In her forthcoming book “This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor” (Public Affairs), Dr. Wicklund describes her work, the circumstances that lead her patients to choose abortion, and the barriers — lack of money, lack of providers, violence in the home or protesters at clinics — that stand in their way.

But she said her main goal with the book was to encourage more open discussion of abortion and its prevalence.
“We don’t talk about it,” she said in a telephone interview. “People say, ‘Nobody I know has ever had an abortion,’ and that is just not true. Their sisters, their mothers have had abortions.”

Dr. Wicklund, 53, said that at current rates almost 40 percent of American women have an abortion during their child-bearing years, a figure supported by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health policy. Abortion is one of the most common operations in the United States, she said, more common than tonsillectomy or removal of wisdom teeth. “Because it is such a secret,” she said, “we lose sight of how common it is.”

But Dr. Wicklund acknowledges that abortion is an issue fraught with dilemmas. In the book, she describes witnessing, as a medical student, the abortion of a 21-week fetus. She writes that at the sight of its tiny arm she decided she would perform abortions only in the first trimester of pregnancy. She says late-term abortions should be legal, but her decision means she occasionally sees desperate women she must refuse to help.

Dr. Wicklund describes her horror when she aborted the pregnancy of a woman who had been raped, only to discover, by examining the removed tissue, that the pregnancy was further along than she or the woman had thought — and that she had destroyed an embryo the woman and her husband had conceived together. And she describes the way she watches and listens as the women she treats tell why they want to end their pregnancies. If she detects uncertainty or thinks they may be responding to the wishes of anyone other than themselves, she says, she tells them to think it over a bit longer.

On the other hand, Dr. Wicklund has little use for requirements like 24-hour waiting periods, or for assertions like those of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who said in a recent Supreme Court decision on abortion that the government had an interest in protecting women from their own decisions in the matter.

“It’s so incredibly insulting,” Dr. Wicklund said in the interview. “The 24-hour waiting period implies that women don’t think about it on their own and have to have the government forcing it on them. To me a lot of the abortion restrictions are about control of women, about power, and it’s insulting.”

Dr. Wicklund said she would put more credence in opponents of abortion rights if they did more to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies. Instead, she said, many of the protesters she encounters “are against birth control, period.” That is unfortunate, she said, because her clinic experience confirms studies showing that emphasizing abstinence rather than contraception may cause girls to delay their first sexual experience for a few months, but “when they do have intercourse they are much less likely to protect themselves with birth control or a condom.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, about a quarter of pregnancies in the United States end in abortion. Dr. Wicklund says that is why she believes far more people favor abortion rights than are willing to admit it in polls. For example, she said in the interview, an abortion ban that seemed to have wide support in South Dakota was put to a vote and “when people got behind those curtains and nobody was watching it was overwhelmingly defeated. Unfortunately, people are not willing to say what they really think.”

One of these people might be a woman she recognized as one of the protesters who regularly appeared, shouting, outside a clinic where she worked. Only now the woman was in the waiting room, desperate to end an unwanted pregnancy. Dr. Wicklund performed the procedure.

And then there is Dr. Wicklund’s maternal grandmother, a woman she was afraid would disapprove of her work. But it turned out that she had a story of her own. “When I was 16 years old, my best friend got pregnant,” is how the story began. Her friend turned to her and her sister for help. They did the only thing they could think of — putting “something long and sharp ‘up there,’ ” according to the book. The girl bled to death, and the cause of her death was kept secret.

“I know exactly what kind of work you do,” the grandmother told Dr. Wicklund, “and it is a good thing.” One question Dr. Wicklund hears “all the time,” she said, is how she can focus on abortion rather than on something more rewarding, like delivering babies.
“In fact, the women are so grateful,” Dr. Wicklund said in the interview. “Women are so grateful to know they can get through this safely, that they can still get pregnant again.
“It is one of the few areas of medicine where you are not working with a sick person, you are doing something for them that gives them back their life, their control,” she added. “It’s a very rewarding thing to be part of that.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/06/health/06abor.html

(edited to add paragraph breaks for better readability)




Edited 11/9/2007 6:44 pm ET by wobitnobby

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iVillage Member
Registered: 10-04-2004
Wed, 11-28-2007 - 11:08pm

I agree with the criticism of those who wish to define life as starting at ever earlier stages, and along with this, working to prevent sale of plan B, encourage pharmacists being able to legally deny filling

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2008
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 10:35pm

3 weeks? 6 weeks? 8 weeks?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2007
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 10:46pm

"If we really want to get into "Pro Choice" cause "It's my body", then I should be a legal 2 dolla hooker smokin' crack when I want "cause it's my body!". But wait, still not moral, ethical or legal......"

Well, considering I also think that drugs and prostitution should be legalized, I guess your argument goes away. It might not make you a smart person to be a two-dollar crack-smoking prostitute, but if it's legal, go ahead! We don't stop you from being an alcoholic or smoking eight packs of cigarettes a day, either.




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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2007
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:04pm

Did I say I wanted them unregulated as they are now? No. I'm just not naive enough to think that making something illegal makes it harder to get, enough so that nobody does it.

In fact, in countries where prostitution and drugs are legal, you don't see the kinds of problems with drug-induced criminality and STD's that we see here.




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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-11-2008
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:09pm
Just a question: what regulations would you aprove of on abortion?

 "Pascal's Wager," which states that believing in God costs you nothing if you're wrong, and wins you everything if you're right.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2008
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:19pm

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You might want to study up on that one before debating on it.


HIV, the infectious agent of AIDS, is thought to have originated in non-human primates in sub-Saharan Africa and transferred to humans during the 20th century. The epidemic officially began on 5 June 1981.


Two species of HIV infect humans: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-2 may have originated from the Sooty Mangabey (Cercocebus atys), an Old World monkey of Guinea-Bissau, Gabon, and Cameroon. HIV-1 is more virulent. It is easily transmitted and is the cause of the majority of HIV infections globally. HIV-2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa. HIV-1 is the species described below.


So let me think, we brought slaves from Africa to our country....then we desegregated...and then aids spread like wild fire. Do you see ANY other country who did that? Hmmmm.....got that tid bit from good ole Wikipedia. Imagine if you actually did some real research on that.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2007
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:22pm
I would suggest that the woman be educated on forms of contraception, and offered reduced-price options to prevent pregnancy. I would think they would make exceptions for women who had abortions for a wanted pregnancy (e.g. the fetus died in utero or never formed a brain or something).




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iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2006
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:27pm

~3 weeks? 6 weeks? 8 weeks?

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2007
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:30pm

What does any of that information have to do with anything related to your argument? BTW, England brought African slaves to its own country, and the Spanish brought African slaves to South America. If you're going to accuse me of not having done research, at least have done some yourself, and make sure that it's specific to the legalization of prostitution and the consumption of crack cocaine, since that's what you were talking about.

And you think that Wikipedia is real research? I have yet to find a single scholar in any subject who will accept Wikipedia as valid research. I could go in there right now and say that the sky is orange and they would not stop me.




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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2008
Sun, 01-13-2008 - 11:31pm
Nope - the Pill and IUD are both meant to prevent pregnancy. I can be pro-life and pro-prevention. Prevent if you can, accept it if you can't.

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