The Religious Consultation
on Population, Reproductive Health  and Ethics

 revisiting the world's sacred traditions

The A Word

Abortion: Real Women, Tough Choices, Personal Freedom

By Mary Ann Sorrentino


HERE S A BOOK THAT ONLY SHE COULD WRITE. There were the death threats. There were mornings she felt uneasy about starting her car. There was the church official who called her public enemy number one of the unborn. She could handle it. It came with the territory. It came with being the most outspoken advocate for abortion rights in Rhode Island.

Mary Ann Sorrentino was executive director of Planned Parenthood in the most Catholic state in the country. She knew there would be ugly, sometimes vicious fallout. She was a Catholic working to provide women with a choice her church considered the darkest sin. But the church went over the line when it tried to draw her 14-year-old daughter, Luisa, into the crossfire. The story is told in a book with a long title The A Word: Abortion: Real Women, Tough Choices, Personal Freedom that Sorrentino has written to remind us that abortion remains legal but under siege. There are two generations who really don t know, who don t understand, she said as we discussed her new book yesterday. They ve never known anything but freedom of choice. They don t know they might lose it. There is a history here of hard choices and spiritual conflict and women who often walked a gauntlet of protesters to reach the clinic door. Sorrentino uses composites of many of the women she knew during her years at Planned Parenthood to tell much of the story. Sorrentino, who was a familiar voice in talk radio in Rhode Island before moving on to become a syndicated columnist, had been considering a book on politics, a handbook for Democrats perhaps. But others could write that book. This book is hers alone. She is the one who was director of Planned Parenthood from 1977 to 1987 when it opened the first outpatient abortion clinic in the state. And she is the one who created her very own precedent in canon law when she was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1985. The excommunication came at the same time that her daughter was called --The Providence Journal

Product Description
Unless the majority voice is heard American women are about to loose their fundamental rights. This book has the potential to motivate people to act before we lose our choices. THE A WORD is about a woman s right to choose for herself. The majority of Americans, over sixty percent, support a woman s right to choose but few women of childbearing age can remember life before Roe v. Wade, when terminating an unwanted pregnancy was a criminal offense often performed at great risk to the woman s health. People don t fully grasp the extent of the consequences: if they don t act now, the bad old days will return. THE A WORD focuses on those bad old days, and on what we can do to prevent the loss of women s hard won rights Tragedy, anguish, danger and death still occur wherever legal abortions are denied. If we do not act now to stop the attempts to end our hard won abortion rights we will have failed miserably; as individuals, as Americans, and as people who claim to celebrate and respect life. Mary Ann Sorrentino

Customer Reviews from

Fascinating and compelling, January 1, 2007
Reviewer: enigma (California) -
It's hard to believe that a story like this could actually be non-fiction. We know that many suffered for civil rights; but so many of the other rights that we take for granted in 2006 also required "freedom fighters" willing to suffer an enormous personal toll for their beliefs. This is one of those stories. Not only is it fascinating to realize what was going on behind the scenes in the fight for reproductive rights; it's compelling reading to understand what one courageous woman actually did and endured on a personal level, to benefit so many.

This is a book for all women to read - young and old., December 30, 2006
Reviewer: Barbara Merlan (Rhode Island, USA)
I had just finished reading this gripping book and had placed it on the counter. My ninety-two year old mother who was visiting, picked it up while I was preparing dinner and read the introduction. She then remarked about how well she thought the book was written. I directed her to the personal stories in the book commenting on how riveting I found them. After reading a few she said, "These things really did happen you know. I remember my mother talking about a young woman she knew who died after having an illegal abortion." And, then my mom continued to reveal information to me about her own experiences with women she knew at work who sought to end unwanted pregnancies but had no place to go that was safe.

Having lived during a time when legal abortion was not available to women, my mom was acutely aware of the consequences of not being able to avail oneself of qualified medical personnel in such a situation.

"The A Word" reminds us all to continue the fight to keep safe and legal abortions available to all who choose to end their unwanted pregnancies through termination.

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