Protect and Defend - Richard North Patterson If this work is characteristic, Patterson writes very literate mystery/thriller novels that take a public issue and dissect it from multiple viewpoints. Protect and Defend has been described by one reviewer as the most accurate portrayal of the Washington political scene. The issue is abortion, specifically fifteen year- ld Mary Anne Tierney’s struggle to abort late-term a severely hydrocephalic, brainless, and otherwise deformed and defective fetus. A normal birth has been deemed impossible and she worries that a Caesarian, as often happens, will prevent her being able to have children later. Her family are vigorously antiabortion under any circumstance Her father is a brilliant law professor and he is pitted against her in the courtroom as the legal representative of the unborn child. A subplot is the political struggle to have a new chief justice confirmed. The recently elected president, Kerry Kilcannon, introduced in a previous book of Patterson’s, [book:No Safe Place], chooses to nominate Caroline Masters (Patterson’s [book:The Final Judgment]). There are allusions to events that take place in both of these earlier works, neither of which I have read — the stack grows ever skyward. Kilcannon and Masters are both very strong, principled characters, who, nevertheless, have skeletons in the closet that provide a most interesting backdrop for an examination of ethical dilemmas. The centerpiece is the sensational, nationally televised trial that pits Mary Anne against her family and becomes an issue in the Masters nomination. Mary Anne’s attorney is a young lawyer who wants to overturn a recently passed law that requires parental consent for abortions. Patterson excels at presenting all sides of an issue quite objectively, and it’s often difficult not to sympathize with all the parties in this difficult case.

Patterson’s an attorney who knows the law, and his novel reflects considerable research. The book could almost be a primer on abortion law and how it has evolved uniquely in this country — it’s hardly an issue in most other countries. It’s also a lesson in how politics is conducted. He talked with both Clinton and Senator Dole about how they would promote or try to defeat a Supreme Court nominee, and he relates that the strategies he learned from these two politically astute people were mesmerizing.

Clearly, Patterson understands the different threads of belief that go into making the conflict so bitter in this country: the patriarchal strain in fundamentalist religion that suggests that women must play a secondary role in the home, making reproduction a male prerogative; a negative cultural response to the perceived licentiousness of the much maligned sixties; and the genuine and respectable view against abortion that relates to the devaluation of life. A difficulty has been for the pro-life movement to define death. According to Patterson, they have been unable to resolve the distinction between biological death and brain death. The Pope, ironically, has accepted brain death as a sign that life is gone, but he has been unable to accept that no brain, i.e., no cerebral cortex formation may be the same thing. For an excellent discussion of the distinction between life and being a human being, I recommend [book:The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy] Patterson deliberately chose to write about a partial-birth abortion because he felt the moral and ethical issues can be brought more clearly into focus. He noted in a television interview on C-Span-2 that “partial-birth” is not a medical concept. It’s a political term that has been used to redefine what abortion means. The book also deals with the relationships within families. “People project their own supposed loveliness as parents on the world at large, and their reaction is terribly personal: ‘I’m a good parent and I would want to be involved,” What they don't stop to consider is that first, if they’re in a functioning family, chances are really good their daughter isn't going to require an Act of Congress to talk to them about this. Second, we may be lovely parents, but what about incestuous families, abusive families, alcoholic families, families where the kid is used as a bone of contention between parents who are at war? All sorts of things which mean that in a given case, you’re either going to get a delay or perhaps a baby out of it, because the minor ultimately doesn’t know what to do. Or, in the worst case, death, either from illegal abortion or because of some act of family violence which is triggered by the exposure of the father’s sexual abuse of the daughter.” This is a fascinating book.