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ROE by Mary Ziegler


The History of a National Obsession

by Mary Ziegler

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2023
ISBN: 9780300266108
Publisher: Yale Univ.

An accessible account of the legal issues surrounding Roe v. Wade and the many layers of controversy surrounding them.

The author of Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment and other books about abortion and the law in America, Ziegler opens with the observation that Roe is the only Supreme Court–adjudicated law concerning abortion. For example, part of the decision was overruled in the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision. Still, “Roe has become the repository for the contradictions of the American abortion war,” which extend well beyond abortion: Does a woman have the right to control her own body? Does life begin at conception? Does the federal government have the right to make laws that should be the purview of individual states? Ziegler digs deep to look at novel approaches to litigation, with some anti-abortion groups, for instance, using the 14th Amendment to equate the unborn with the enslaved, with “their humanity denied by others who perpetrated acts of unspeakable violence against them.” Other interpretations have centered on science, with both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists insisting that the scientific evidence is on their side. Interestingly, Ziegler writes, the religious liberty aspect of Roe came to the fore relatively recently, when “conservative Christian groups…framed legal abortion and LGBTIQ rights as forcing Christians to forsake their own beliefs.” Interestingly, too, Roe was from the outset criticized as poorly framed. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would become the Supreme Court’s most vocal defender of abortion rights, often argued that Roe went too far too fast and undermined the pro-choice movement’s earlier progress,” writes Ziegler. Following Roe’s overturning by a Supreme Court that has been revealed as a partisan rather than impartial body, a newly “robust popular constitutionalism” may arise by which states guarantee the right of choice through citizen action.

As always, Ziegler is a clear explainer of a complex, gray-shaded body of law.