That robustly persistent booster of the cause of civil liberties and the brotherhood of man, and author of over 80 published works (most recently, Being Red, 1990), now takes on the cause of women's rights--specifically the right to choose abortion- -and produces a lively courtroom drama, set in an unnamed southern state. A 41-year-old professor, having (presumably) had an abortion, is on trial for her life as a newly minted law makes abortion a crime punishable by death. ``Yesterday we were a sleepy backwater town. Today we're the hub of the universe,'' says presiding Judge George Lee Benson--a dream judge, hard as nails, fair, with a razor mind able to slice through windy detours and elaborate legal maneuvers. Outside the courtroom where Abigail Goodman is on trial are reporters from major foreign and American newspapers (they'll contribute sidebar versions of events). There are also bused-in activists from the pro's and con's. Meanwhile, Abigail, whose grandfather was a senator from the state, is represented by two friends--married couple Jack and Button Ridley--and by her husband, Bill, also a lawyer. They're joined by a New York attorney working pro bono, but he's then severely beaten and left for dead. (Possibly responsible is the anti-Semitism element about town.) Witnesses--clergy, doctors, and Abigail herself--are led out and into troubling unsolvable matters, both theological and medical, and often the judge summons lawyers into conference and snaps them to. The final breaking point in the trial will involve some fancy legal footwork before the case is buttoned up. The question raised here remains--whether the fierce anti- abortion movement is more angry for the sake of the unborn or at the emancipation of women. Fast, in any event, is donating profits from the book to Planned Parenthood.