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21 May 2019 GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller, Henry Holt, April 2019, 240p., ISBN: 978-1-250-15169-8


“Supreme Court sits in Washington

Every one a mother’s son.

Women’s fate is lost and won

Behind that heavy door.

The justices preside in noble ease.

None of them ever suffers pregnancies

So they hand out decisions such as these:

Back alley abortions for the poor,

Yes, back alley kitchen knife solutions,

Wire hanger abortions for the poor.”

-- Malvina Reynolds (1978)


“Alabama’s Republican governor has signed the most stringent abortion legislation in the nation, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases...The legislation Alabama senators passed Tuesday would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison for the provider. There is no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.”

--Associated Press, “Alabama governor invokes God in banning nearly all abortions (5/16/19)


“When the penalty for abortion after being raped is more than the penalty for rape, you know it’s a war on women.”

-- My response on Facebook to Alabama (5/16/19)


“Everyone is at work, and I have the house to myself, which is good. I sit in my bedroom researching on my laptop. Each time I think I understand Texas abortion restrictions, another page says something contradictory, and it seems to be changing by the day. What was true a few years ago is different now. I don’t know. I shut my laptop.

This much is clear: I can’t get an abortion through a clinic--that’s completely out of the running. I pull up the Greyhound bus schedule. It takes at least eight hours by bus to get to the border. I look up hotels near there. The cheapest one I find is sixty bucks a night.

Okay, this is good. I got this.

But I don’t got this, because the website says I need someone I trust to stay with me as the tissue passes. I can grit my way through it. But what if that’s not enough? How much pain and blood is too much before I know I need a hospital? I picture myself on the floor of some janky hotel by the border, all alone, bleeding to death.

What is wrong with me? Why don’t I have more friends in my life I can trust with anything? All my friends come from the Globe, and we only have acting in common. I’ve spent my whole life in a mini-clique with Bea, creating our own little world. We shared Harry Potter, model horses, camp, Shakespeare, Oreos, problems with our parents. We were always in lockstep, always in full agreement. But now that’s all gone.

And then Annabelle Ponsonby pops into my mind. Someone willing to buy a twenty-five dollar [pregnancy] test for a girl she barely knows would probably be trustworthy. But what would I say to her? ‘Hey, we were in a couple of plays together. Would you mind driving me to Mexico to get an abortion?’

But I am out of options, so I look on the Globe directory for Annabelle’s number. I cringe as I tap in each digit.”


Seventeen year-old Camille Winchester is an above-average student who has every intention of graduating high school and attending college. She had sex one time with a guy she barely knew. She actually had the guy wear a condom. She found the encounter an underwhelming experience. It was also the last she ever saw of the guy. Much worse, she was really unlucky and got pregnant. Should this unfortunate mistake necessarily affect the rest of her life? Should or shouldn’t she be permitted to terminate the pregnancy? As we learn in GIRLS ON THE VERGE, it’s quite a challenge for a teen to obtain an abortion in the state of Texas.


If anything, Camille’s story provides some good reasons for holding off on sex. Tween and teen readers will get an unflattering picture of what it can be like to lose one’s virginity to some loser who you don’t know well enough and with whom you don’t have a strong emotional connection. Lots of teen readers may consider holding out for someone really special after reading about Camille’s experience with the guy who impregnated and then ghosted her.


Through her experience of verifying and then seeking to terminate the pregnancy, Camille deals with chauvinist pharmacists and religious judges. Unable to obtain permission to have an abortion without parental consent, she deceives her parents as to her whereabouts and heads out on the road in search of a way to terminate the pregnancy. Accompanied by her old best friend Bea, who is opposed to abortion, and her new best friend Annabelle, the trio travel hundreds of miles, get run off the road by some truly disgusting young thugs, and repeatedly reach dead ends as Camille seeks to exercise her right to choose.


Through the travails of her main character, author Sharon Biggs Waller also provides a shocking and unforgettable portrayal of what young pregnant women like Camille encounter when they are suckered into visiting a so-called family planning clinic that turns out, instead, to be an anti-abortion brainwashing facility. I want to get every teen I can possibly reach to read about Camille’s experience at that “clinic.” This is the kind of horrific stuff going on in America that so many of us know so little about.


This is one of those books that makes me embarrassed to be grouped with the males of the species. There sure aren’t many good ones to be found among these pages.


America still has a far longer history of treating women like property than it does of treating women as being in any way equal to men. GIRLS ON THE VERGE and recent news reports from the South remind us that the many of the significant gains in women’s rights over the past 60 years remain incomplete and the futures of these relatively recent victories are not necessarily guaranteed indefinitely. For instance, states like Alabama are doing everything they can to prompt the overturn Roe v Wade.


At this point in history, when women are facing unprecedented challenges to their right to choose, GIRLS ON THE VERGE is a book that graphically illustrates how women are victimized and criminalized when male legislators go whittling away at women’s rights.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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