Sarah Weddington, attorney who won Roe v Wade abortion case, dies aged 76 | Roe v Wade

Sarah Weddington, an attorney who argued and won the Roe v Wade supreme courtroom case which established the precise to abortion within the US, has died aged 76.

Susan Hays, a Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner, announced the information on Twitter on Sunday and the Dallas Morning Information confirmed it.

“Sarah Weddington died this morning after a collection of well being points,” Hays wrote. “With Linda Espresso, she filed the primary case of her authorized profession, Roe v Wade, contemporary out of regulation faculty. She was my professor … the most effective writing teacher I ever had, and an ideal mentor.

“At 27 she argued Roe to [the supreme court] (a indisputable fact that at all times made me really feel like a gross underachiever). Paradoxically, she labored on the case as a result of regulation companies wouldn’t rent ladies within the early 70s, leaving her with a number of time for good hassle.”


The courtroom dominated on Roe v Wade in 1973. Practically 50 years later the precise it established is underneath menace from a supreme courtroom full of hardline conservatives, partly due to a Texas regulation that drastically restricts entry and affords incentives for reporting ladies to authorities.

In 2017, talking to the Guardian, Weddington predicted such a flip of occasions. “If [Neil] Gorsuch’s nomination is permitted, will abortion be unlawful the subsequent day? No. One new choose won’t essentially make a lot distinction. However two or three would possibly.”

After steering Gorsuch on to the courtroom – and a seat held open by Senate Republican chief Mitch McConnell when Barack Obama was president – Donald Trump put in Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett changed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of girls’s rights.

Sarah Weddington
Sarah Weddington poses with a signed copy of the Roe v Wade determination in entrance of the US supreme courtroom in 2005. {Photograph}: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty

Weddington discovered her option to Roe v Wade quickly after graduating from regulation faculty on the College of Texas. Represented by Weddington and Espresso, Norma McCorvey grew to become the plaintiff often known as “Jane Roe” in Roe v Wade. McCorvey grew to become an evangelical Christian and opponent of abortion. She died in 2017.

In her Guardian interview, Weddington mentioned arguing the case in federal courtroom. “I used to be very nervous,” she mentioned. “It was like happening a avenue with no avenue lights. However there was no different option to go and I didn’t have any preconceived notions that I might not win.”

She won, however the case continued.

“Henry Wade, the district attorney, unwittingly helped us,” she mentioned. “At a press convention, he mentioned, ‘I don’t care what any courtroom says; I’m going to proceed to prosecute docs who perform abortion.’ There was a procedural rule that mentioned if native elected officers proceed to prosecute after a federal courtroom had declared a regulation unconstitutional, there can be a proper to attraction to the supreme courtroom.”

Earlier than the courtroom in Washington, Weddington mentioned: “It was unattainable to learn the justices’ faces. The attorney on the opposite aspect began by saying one thing inappropriate about arguing a case towards a wonderful girl. He thought the judges would snicker. However their faces didn’t change a bit.

“I needed to argue it twice within the supreme courtroom: in 1971 and once more in 1972. On 22 January 1973 I used to be on the Texas legislature when the telephone rang. It was a reporter from the New York Occasions. ‘Does Miss Weddington have a remark at this time about Roe v Wade?’ my assistant was requested. ‘Why?’ she mentioned. ‘Ought to she?’

“It was starting to be very thrilling. Then we acquired a telegram from the supreme courtroom saying that I had won 7-2 and that they have been going to air-mail a replica of the ruling. These days, after all, you’d simply log on.

“I used to be ecstatic, and greater than 44 years later we’re nonetheless speaking about it.”

Weddington later revealed that she had an abortion herself, in 1967. “Simply earlier than the anaesthesia hit,” she mentioned, “I assumed: ‘I hope nobody ever is aware of about this.’ For lots of years, that was precisely the best way I felt. Now there’s a significant push to encourage ladies to inform their tales so folks will realise that it’s not a shameful factor. One out of each 5 ladies may have an abortion.”


Weddington predicted: “No matter else I do in my life, the headline on my obituary is at all times going to be ‘Roe v Wade attorney dies’.”

In actual fact she achieved rather more, as Hays detailed in her tweets on Sunday. “These profession doorways shut to her led her to run for workplace, getting elected as the primary girl from Travis county within the [Texas legislature] in 1972 (together with 4 different ladies elected to the Home: Kay Bailey, Chris Miller, Betty Andujar and Senfronia Thompson).

“She was basic counsel of america Division of Agriculture underneath [Jimmy] Carter and loved her stint in DC. Federal judicial nominations for Texas have been run by her as a high-ranking Texan within the administration.

Weddington when she was particular assistant to President Jimmy Carter. {Photograph}: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

“A Dallas lawyer she knew sought a bench. She had interviewed with him whereas at UT regulation. He’d requested her, ‘What’s going to we inform our wives if we rent you?’ She advised him he was losing their time and hers and walked out of the interview. He didn’t get the judgeship.

“Ever the correct preacher’s daughter, she would by no means inform me who the lawyer was. Individuals don’t know that about Sarah. She was such a correct Methodist minister’s daughter. One of many few folks I couldn’t cuss in entrance of.”

Hays additionally paid tribute to Weddington as a instructor and a member of a “Nice Austin Matriarchy” that additionally included the previous Texas governor Ann Richards and the columnist Molly Ivins.

In her Guardian interview, Weddington indicated she was at peace with being remembered for Roe v Wade. “I feel most girls of my technology can recall our emotions in regards to the battle,” she mentioned. “It’s like younger love. You might not really feel precisely the identical, however you keep in mind it.”

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