Sarah Weddington, Texan who argued Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court, dies at 76

Sarah Weddington, Texan who argued Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court, dies at 76

Sarah Weddington, a trailblazer for women’s rights known for her role arguing the landmark Roe vs. Wade case before the U.S. Supreme Court, died in her sleep Sunday morning. She was 76.

Weddington is best known as the youngest person to argue before the high court at age 26 in 1971 — in one of the most controversial cases in the court’s history, Roe vs. Wade. The milestone ruling in the case that legalized abortion came in 1973.

Attorney Susan Hays, Weddington’s mentee and former student, confirmed the death on Twitter as she credited her for the inspiration to be a lawyer. Hays later provided The Texas Tribune with a statement from Weddington’s family, and said she had been found unresponsive at home by her assistant.

Hays told The Associated Press that Weddington had been in poor health for some time and it was not immediately clear what caused her death.

Weddington was a motivation for women in the 1970s in Texas and beyond, Hays said. It was a time when “the world was changing for women,” she said.

“Sarah Weddington was a great Texan who changed the course of our nation’s history,” Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, said in a prepared statement.

Sarah Ragle was born in Abilene on Feb. 5, 1945. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother a teacher.

She earned a bachelor of arts in English at McMurry University in Abilene. She earned her law degree at the University of Texas Law School, at a time when there were few women attending law school. She was among 40 women in a class of 1,600 students.

McMurry University, Hamilton College, Austin College, Southwestern University and Nova Southeastern University awarded her honorary doctorate degrees.

She married Ron Weddington and married him in 1968 while she was attending school in Austin.

Her decision to terminate a pregnancy during her third year of law school played a significant role in her involvement in abortion rights in the country, according to a 2013 profile in The Dallas Morning News.

Weddington and her husband divorced later in life; she did not remarry or have children and lived alone in her Austin home.

“She was definitely a pioneer,” Linda Coffee, her co-counsel in Roe vs. Wade, told The News upon hearing the news of her death. “She was a strong leader.”

Coffee said that she was not close friends with Weddington in law school, but they knew each other. It wasn’t until after Weddington and Coffee were out of college that they joined up to represent Norma McCorvey, a pregnant woman seeking an abortion, known by her pseudonym “Jane Roe.”

Weddington was working on abortion rights when she met Coffee, who invited her to be on the case.

“Would you consider being co-counsel in the event that a suit is actually filed. I have always found that it is a great deal more fun to work with someone on a lawsuit of this nature,” Coffee wrote to Weddington in a letter dated Dec. 4, 1969.

The letter Linda Coffee sent Sarah Weddington where she asked Weddington to be her co-counsel photographed at Coffee’s home on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Mineola. Coffee, along with Sarah Weddington, successfully challenged the Texas abortion law and the case culminated in the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)Linda Coffee poses for a portrait on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Mineola. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)
The letter Linda Coffee sent Sarah Weddington where she asked Weddington to be her co-counsel photographed at Coffee’s home on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Mineola. Coffee, along with Sarah Weddington, successfully challenged the Texas abortion law and the case culminated in the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)Linda Coffee poses for a portrait on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Mineola. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Weddington agreed, and the pair met with McCorvey in a restaurant in Dallas. Though they couldn’t help her obtain an abortion, they convinced her to start a case against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. Both Weddington and Coffee argued the case at the district court.

Linda Coffee holds her filing receipts for Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Wade at Coffee’s home on Dec. 9, 2021, in Mineola. Coffee, along with Sarah Weddington, successfully challenged the Texas abortion law and the case culminated in the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.
Politics

Dallas lawyer Linda Coffee launched landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion rights case with a $15 filing fee

It all started with a $15 filing fee. Known for changing the course of history, Linda Coffee, the lawyer who found Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court with co-counsel Sarah Weddington, speaks out for the first time since 2017 and gives her insight into the Texas and Mississippi abortion cases. She’s got strong views to offer as reproductive rights advocates fight to overturn Texas’ new abortion law.

On Dec. 13, 1971, Weddington argued the case before the all-male Supreme Court at the age of 26, making her the youngest lawyer to argue before the high court.

“The Texas law in question permits abortions to be performed only in instances where it is for the purpose of saving the life of the woman,” Weddington said in her address to the court.

At the time Texas state law only permitted abortions in the event that the pregnancy would cause life threatening issues for the woman carrying the child.

When Weddington and Coffee entered the courtroom on Dec. 13, someone mentioned to the pair that the court was full of the justices’ wives. Coffee suggested that detail indicated the outcome.

“People that knew what was important to the justices would recognize that it emphasized that the court, at least some of the judges, really thought that it was an important case,” Coffee said.

The case was argued a second time again solely by Weddington on Oct. 11, 1972. On Jan. 23, 1973, the case was decided 7-2 in favor of Weddington’s arguments and abortion was effectively legal in the nation.

A life of firsts

Weddington achieved many firsts as a trailblazer for women. In 1973 Weddington became the first Austin woman to join the 150-member Texas House of Representatives. She served for three terms, during which time she authored multiple bills that became law, expanding women’s rights, including legal protections for sexual assault and rape victims. One of her legislative aides in the 1970s was Ann Richards, who would later become governor of Texas.

She was the first woman to take on the role of general counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1977. As a special assistant to President Jimmy Carter from Weddington advised the administration on issues that impacted women, and also helped find women for top political positions.

Weddington also gave lectures at Texas Woman’s University from 1981 to 1990, where she was a professor in the department of government and history. She then returned to her alma mater, the University of Texas, where she taught for almost 30 years.

Weddington wrote numerous books and received many awards for her work as a lawyer, activist, and teacher.

An unsettled legacy

Weddington’s legacy is still up for debate as the Supreme Court is currently deciding Dobbs vs. Mississippi, a case which directly challenges Roe. A decision is expected in June 2022.

The court has never reversed course once it has recognized a constitutional right. But the court’s biggest conservative majority in decades has signaled a willingness to overturn Roe both by taking the Mississippi case, and by allowing a six-week ban to take effect in Texas three months ago.

“It is an egregiously wrong decision that has inflicted tremendous damage on our country and will continue to do so and take innumerable human lives unless and until this court overrules it,” Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart said in arguing Dobbs before the high court Dec. 1.

“The court has never revoked a right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and so central to their ability to participate fully and equally in society,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices, arguing on behalf of the Biden administration.

The twin challenges from Mississippi and Texas have given abortion foes high hopes.

Texas’ Senate Bill 8 authorizes lawsuits against doctors, clinic workers, drivers or others who help a woman terminate a pregnancy after embryonic cardiac activity is detected. Awards start at $10,000. And the law allows for unlimited lawsuits for the same abortion, a ruinous threat and a potent deterrent.

Since the landmark Roe ruling, the U.S. has enacted 1,336 abortion restrictions. However, it is estimated that over 62 million legal abortions have been performed since the 1973 decision.

Meanwhile in Texas, abortion is currently prohibited after six weeks since Senate Bill 8, a law which went into effect on Sept. 1, has withstood many legal challenges including at the high court. The law empowers privates citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets’ an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected.

Weddington never really considered the legal wranglings over.

In a memorable quote in Texas Monthly in February 2003, she said:

“I am sure when my obituary is written, the lead paragraph will be about Roe v. Wade. I thought, over a period of time, that the right of a woman to make a decision about what she would do in a particular pregnancy would be accepted — that by this time, the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. , the controversy over abortion would have gradually faded away like the closing scenes of a movie and we could go on to other issues. I was wrong.”

Staff writers Nataly Keomoungkhoun and Hojun Choi contributed to this report.


Source link Coffee History

Coffee Shop Millionaire

Author Bio

About "Sarah Weddington, Texan who argued Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court, dies at 76"

Reviewed By This Is Article About Sarah Weddington, Texan who argued Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court, dies at 76 was posted on have 4 stars rating.

Comment Area