In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling on abortion, Macmillan Audio will publish an audiobook edition of three key cases. The title, Dobbs v. Jackson: Recordings of the Supreme Court’s Decisions and Dissents in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Roe v. Wade, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, includes readings of the justices’ opinions, along with an introduction by public policy specialist and former Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Faye Wattleton. (Listen to an excerpt from Wattleton's introduction here.)
Content development manager Michelle Altman, who shepherded the process, calls the project “a massive team effort.” The idea originated with Macmillan Audio marketing associate Claire Beyette, and senior director of production Guy Oldfield lined up the narrators. “We knew we had to move quickly,” said Altman, once Politico leaked the Dobbs draft opinion on Monday, May 2. “On Tuesday our team discussed the idea and confirmed everything with our legal team,” then began reviewing materials and assigning tasks.
To make the legal documents legible for the narrators and for listeners, Altman spent hours adding clarifications and moving mid-sentence citations into a separate file, included with the audiobook as a PDF. Ariel Blake (who narrated Patrice Cullors’ An Abolitionist’s Handbook) narrated the Dobbs decision and dissent, while social-justice storyteller Imani Jade Powers narrated the opinions on 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Altman describes “almost round-the-clock editing, mixing, and mastering by [audio engineers] Tim Franklin and Sal Barone.”
The team also made a list of “advocates who could write an intersectional, well-informed, and measured introduction,” said Altman. “Faye Wattleton was the obvious choice.” V-P of publishing Robert Allen reached out to Wattleton, who wrote a draft and came to Macmillan’s studios on May 12 to record. After a round of edits with Altman and a second recording session on May 16, the introduction was complete.
Although Wattleton recorded her introduction shortly before the Dobbs ruling, she was unsurprised by the decision. “I’m not going back to re-record,” she said, because “the Supreme Court did not just up and overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s been a progression, and this did not happen dramatically overnight.” She points to cases including Harris v. McRae (1980) and Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) that added to this year’s precedent, and she is furious that voters and officials have not rallied to ensure the constitutional protection of privacy and bodily autonomy.
She provides a “civics lesson” from 1987, when Planned Parenthood Federation of America was under her leadership. “I want it on my tombstone: We defeated Robert Bork,” Wattleton said, referring to the Senate’s rejection of the conservative Supreme Court nominee, after lobbying from liberal organizations including PPFA. She believes such a movement could succeed again, yet worries that “complacency has gotten us where we are today. I suppose if I were to be critical of our side, there is a profound lack of understanding about the human condition, and circumstances that vary” for vulnerable populations. In her introduction, she explains that Black women are among the most likely to be harmed by a lack of access to healthcare resources.
While Wattleton calls for collective action and “a measure of compassion for one another,” Macmillan Audio’s team has pushed to make these legal documents accessible in an alternative format. “All told, we finished the project in 16 days,” said Altman. “The passion to have a product like this out in the world has been a huge motivator.”