LOVEJOY: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic by Peter Korn

LOVEJOY: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic

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A keenly observed account of the human and political drama surrounding an abortion clinic. Freelance writer Korn spent a year at Lovejoy, a clinic in Portland, Ore., during which time he came to know intimately many of the workers there, as well as some of its vehement opponents, and they all defy easy stereotype. Head counselor Carye's empathic power is her greatest strength, and her weakness; she hates the term ""pro-choice"" because she feels that most of her patients do not have a choice. Allene, who sports sculpted nails and drives a black Jaguar, runs the clinic; she is a savvy businesswoman and fierce strategist. Outside the clinic is an equally compelling cast of characters--Andrew Burnett and his followers. Burnett, seemingly calm and rational, heads Advocates for Life, a Portland-based organization which puts out literature condoning the killing of abortion doctors. During the 12 months of Korn's coverage, Lovejoy weathers not only cascading threats and disruptive protests (one doctor wears a bulletproof vest), but harassment from angry boyfriends, the agony of countless indecisive girls, the sight of many people making wrenching choices, and persistent disputes among the staff. Worst of all, one surgical procedure goes terribly wrong, terrifying patients and staff alike. Korn's year-in-the-life format works well because events at Lovejoy are so consistently dramatic that his book needs no other narrative structure. The prose in the first chapters is a bit awkward and stilted, but as the pace picks up, it becomes more readable. Directly quoting the subjects more often would have given the narrative more resonance. Lovejoy is certain to humanize a battle that, though ceaselessly in the news, is waged too often in abstractions. Reading it is like watching the best kind of documentary film: It puts you on the scene, romanticizes no one, and doesn't preach.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly