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For Many Oregon Women, a 35-Year-Old “Secret”

January 22, 2008

Portland, OR – Thirty-five years ago Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case of Roe v. Wade. The decision affirmed a woman's legal right to have an abortion in the early months of pregnancy.

Today, the procedure remains both common and controversial. A doctor who performs abortions believes the secrecy about it takes an unnecessary toll on women and skews the ongoing abortion debate. In her new book, "This Common Secret: My Life as an Abortion Provider," physician Susan Wicklund says terminating a pregnancy shouldn't have to be a secret. In fact, she says, it's a decision 40 percent of women will make at some point in their lives.

"Because it's such a common procedure, it affects everyone, not just the women walking into the clinic, but their extended families and, therefore, everyone around them. It's so prevalent, and I think that's what we don't understand. This is not 'somebody else,' it's us."

In her view, the secrecy, political rhetoric and repeated court challenges by states create additional problems for women and overshadow the need for the procedure to be safe and legal.

Abortion rates are decreasing in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In the first five years of this decade, abortion numbers decreased 25 percent in Oregon.

Wicklund's book includes mentions of the death threats she has received. She says one thing she has noticed in 20 years of practice is that the types of people who picket the clinics have changed: Those who were willing to talk seem to have disappeared.

"They've gone away to some extent, because they don't want to be associated with the real fringe people who are still out in front of the clinics and, I think, are the dangerous ones."

The National Abortion Federation reports about 4,000 business disruptions at clinics around the country in the last year-–mostly picketing, harassing calls and hate mail. The protesters say it's their right to use these means to oppose abortion.

Wicklund will be in Portland on Feb. 12 for a book-signing event. For information, visit www.inotherwords.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR