Book Review: The End of Roe v. Wade by Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo

The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion is a recent update to a previous book written by Robin Marty and Jennifer Mason Pieklo (hereafter MP), called Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That, published in 2013. The previous title was more of a mouthful. The End of Roe v. Wade attempts to show the erosion of that controversial Supreme Court decision by looking at the bills that states have been passing which chip away at it. However, MP are clearly pro-choice advocates and make no attempt to even sound unbiased in their research. As a result, while the book is moderately informative, it’s a real slog to get through if you don’t love abortion as much as they do. They don’t seem to understand that pro-life people actually do care about the lives of unborn children and so consistently push the lie that it’s all about controlling women. This book was obviously written for hard-line pro-choice people, not to help pro-life people gain understanding of their point of view, nor even for people on the fence about it. Books by non-academics tend to be of very little worth to the discussion, and this book continues that trend. The best pro-choice books are still those written by academics, such as A Defense of Abortion by philosopher David Boonin and Arguments About Abortion by Kate Greasley.

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t think this book was proofread at all. I ordinarily don’t fixate on typographical errors because for me, it’s all about the arguments. But in this case, there are so many errors (e.g. misspellings, wrong punctuation, words not capitalized when they should be, etc.) that it was altogether distracting. It really makes it seem like they didn’t care enough about the content to ensure that it was presented well. It was so much of an issue that even a pro-choice reviewer who read the book said that he couldn’t recommend it based on the numerous errors.

It’s really difficult a lot of times to analyze MP’s claims because they don’t really give any arguments for them. They just assume, for example, that human embryos and fetuses (at least early embryos) are not persons but they never argue for it. They seem content to just assume it and then believe that pro-life people are evil for trying to defend the unborn from abortionists. I doubt they have a very robust understanding of rights, either, as they have no discussion of it. They just point to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and assume that the justices made the right call in denying rights to unborn human beings.

MP do provide numerous citations of the journeys these bills went through to get voted on (although many of their citations are to articles they’ve written themselves on blogs), but they make many controversial claims they provide absolutely no citations for. Some examples of these claims: Nearly the entire medical community has rejected a link between abortion and increased risks of suicide (p. 115); many Catholic hospitals refuse to allow the termination of pregnancies that endanger the mother’s life (p. 164) — although they did provide one piece of anecdotal evidence for this claim; fetuses surviving abortion attempts is pure fiction (p. 195); abortion is much safer than childbirth, especially early on (p. 202); and a fetus is incapable of feeling pain prior to the third trimester (p. 259), although they did allude to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for this last claim.

Not only are all of these claims controversial, MP can actually be shown to be completely wrong, through actual evidence. For example, many abortion attempts do result in a live birth. Not only are there pro-life advocates who are abortion survivors, such as Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen, but accounts of babies who survive abortions are not difficult to find if you’re not intent on ignoring their existence. Also, the ACOG is just wrong about when the fetus can feel pain. It doesn’t surprise me that ACOG wouldn’t have knowledge of this. I’ve taken them to task before for making an incorrect medical claim (see my article here). There has always been good reason to suspect fetuses can feel pain earlier, but a recent study published by a pro-choice and pro-life academic, SWG Derbyshire and JC Bockmann, shows that there is good reason to suspect fetuses may feel pain much earlier than suspected — as early as 12 weeks.

I could go on. There is even good evidence MP are wrong on the other controversial claims I listed above. But this isn’t intended to be a full-on refutation of their arguments, merely a review of the book. While there is limited benefit to reading the book if you want to know some of the history of these bills, the authors’ extreme bias, lack of proofreading, and shoddy arguments makes this book one that you can safely skip. Unless you’re specifically interested in these bills as a pro-choice person, I don’t see much benefit that you would receive from reading it.

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