Abortion, “dirty work,” and the ever-changing font

By Dave Andrusko

dirtyworkbookAt NRL News Today we regularly post about how abortion is portrayed in popular culture. An area we perhaps do not pay enough attention to is fiction.

Take “Dirty Work,” written by Gabriel Weston which I have been meaning to read. [Weston was a physician who left to become a writer for reasons that would take us too far astray to discuss.] Until I do, let me offer a few comments based on an interview she gave to NPR.

After listening to the interview and reading the highlights of the discussion with NPR staff, I learned two things.

First, I need to read the book. By way of a summary introduction, we learn “Nancy” [the protagonist] “performs abortions, and at the beginning of the book you learn that she has botched a woman’s termination, leaving the patient in a coma. Suddenly she is hurled into weeks of sessions with medical review boards and psychiatrist evaluations where she has to re-examine her life and what she does for a living.”

As you listen to the interview, clearly Weston takes what she probably would argue is a middle stance. For instance she subtly critiques people who “seem to feel that there’s a great sort of burden upon them to have a very, very clear and formulated position on this very, very serious subject.”

Asked how her own views on abortion might have changed as she wrote the book, Weston said

“They evolved. I don’t know if they changed. I mean what I found that really surprised me when I wrote this book was how I sympathized with the patients having the abortions and the doctors doing the abortions, but also, interestingly, I really sympathized with the people who were out there waving their banners and objecting.”

Second, Weston writes in detail what happens in an abortion. She told NPR, “It was probably the biggest challenge of the novel.”

How she handled that challenge speaks volumes and is (unintentionally) a standing rebuke to the pro-abortion crowd determined to “normalize” abortion.

“In the end, I opted for changing the font when I come to describing the abortion procedure, in order … to flag up for the reader that this is the part in the novel that they might not want to read. So I hope that I have given the reader an out if they need one. But I did feel that writing a novel on abortion wouldn’t be complete without tackling, you know, what it actually is like to see that done, or in the case of this character … I’m writing from her point of view, and she is doing the procedure.”

“Changing the font.” A heads-up to readers that what they are about to read will probably shock them all the way down to the soles of their feet.

Having not read the book, I know only that “Dirty Work” (an allusion to performing abortions) is written from the abortionist’s point of view. I look forward to reading how she accomplishes the impossible: meshing the brutality and bloodiness of abortion with her role as a physician.