A longtime abortion provider relates her personal history, describes the opposition’s ferocity, chronicles the corrosive effects of her profession on her family life and portrays herself as a White Knight in a Dark World.
In 1980, Wicklund was a 26-year-old single mother on welfare. When a mentor advised her to become a doctor, she debated and then tried it, discovered she was a top student and zipped through college and medical school. Settling on a career in women’s health, she devoted herself to traveling around the Upper Midwest performing legal abortions at various clinics. Her peripatetic professional activities shot down two marriages and introduced into her life a level of stress that is difficult to fathom: screaming protestors, threats of violence, frightening phone calls. At times she resorted to disguises to get by picketers; she packed guns while she performed operations. Her professional life became just about her entire life. Her most satisfying experience was the Mountain Country Women’s Clinic she established in Bozeman, Mont., but she was forced to close it after five years in 1998 to help her sick and aging parents while working part-time at a corporate-owned facility in St. Paul, Minn. She returned to full-time work in Montana after her mother’s death. All this is either admirable or reprehensible, depending on your position on abortion, but Wicklund and co-author Kesselheim have no doubts: She is eligible for sainthood right now. All the dialogue—and there is quite a bit—portrays her speaking in reasonable, well-structured paragraphs while her enemies bray in ignorant ugliness. She understands every case before her; knows when to touch, when to cry; converts a few naysayers; confronts the angry with calm courage; never makes a mistake in surgery. Two postscripts—one by her daughter, another by Kesselheim—provide further, embarrassing testimonials.
In a genre known for self-celebration, this is Self-Celebration.