Sarah Weddington

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Sarah Weddington
Sarah Weddington at March for Women's Lives 2004.JPG
Born Sarah Ragle
(1945-02-05) February 5, 1945 (age 69)
Abilene, Texas
Nationality United States
Occupation Lawyer, activist
Known for Roe v. Wade case

Sarah Ragle Weddington (born February 5, 1945), is an American attorney, law professor, and former Texas state legislator best known for representing "Jane Roe" (real name Norma McCorvey) in the landmark Roe v. Wade case before the United States Supreme Court.[1][2][3] In 1989, she was portrayed by Amy Madigan in the television film Roe vs. Wade.

Background and Education[edit]

Born Sarah Ragle in Abilene, Texas, Weddington is the daughter of Lena Catherine and Rev. Herbert Doyle Ragle, a Methodist minister. As a child, she was drum major of her junior high band, president of the Methodist youth fellowship at her church, played the organ, sang in the church choir, and rode horses. As a sophomore in high school, she was president of the Future Homemakers of America, stating, "That was one of the few things that a woman could be president of, so I was".[citation needed] Weddington graduated from high school two years early, and then graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English from McMurry University. She is a member of Sigma Kappa sorority.

In 1964, she entered the University of Texas Law School. Weddington was 1 of 5 women entering her class of 120 students and only 1 of 40 women in the entire student body of 1600 students.[4] She was in a class that included future United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In 1967, during her third year of law school, Weddington faced an unplanned pregnancy with her partner Ron Weddington (whom she married in 1968), and travelled to Mexico for an illegal abortion. She received her J.D. that same year, graduating in the top quarter of her class.

Weddington holds honorary doctorates from McMurry University, Hamilton College, Austin College, Southwestern University, and Nova Southeastern University.

Roe v. Wade[edit]

Sarah Weddington, September 18, 1978

After graduating, Weddington found it difficult to find a job with a law firm. She instead joined a group of graduate students at University of Texas-Austin that were researching ways to challenge various anti-abortion statutes. After deciding that a woman should helm a lawsuit to challenge Texas’ statute, Weddington volunteered.[5]

Soon after, a pregnant woman named Norma McCorvey visited a local attorney seeking an abortion. The attorney instead assisted McCorvey with handing over her child for adoption, and after doing so, referred McCorvey to Weddington and Linda Coffee. In March 1970, Weddington and her co-counsel filed suit against Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney and the person responsible for enforcing the anti-abortion statute. McCorvey became the landmark plaintiff, and was referred in the legal documents as "Jane Roe" to protect her identity.

Weddington first stated her case in front of a three-judge district court on May 1970 in Dallas. The district court agreed that the Texas abortion laws were unlawful, but the state appealed the decision, landing it before the United States Supreme Court.

Weddington appeared before the Supreme Court in 1971 and again in the fall of 1972. Her argument was based on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 14th amendments, as well as the Court's previous decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized the sale of contraceptives based on the right of privacy. Of the experience, Weddington later stated, "There was a sense of majesty, walking up those stairs, my steps echoing on the marble. I went to the lawyers' lounge — to go over my argument. I wanted to make a last stop before I went in — but there was no ladies' room in the lawyer's lounge."[5]

The Court’s decision was ultimately handed down in January 1973, overturning Texas’ abortion law by a 7-2 majority, and legalizing abortion within the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy. By then, Weddington had been elected a state legislator. At the age of 27, Weddington remains the youngest person to argue a successful Supreme Court case.[6]

In 1992, Weddington compiled her experiences with the case and interviews with the people involved into a book titled A Question of Choice.

Subsequent career[edit]

After arguing Roe v. Wade, Weddington was elected to three terms in the Texas House of Representatives.

Additionally, Weddington served as General Counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture in 1977 (the first woman to hold that office), assistant to president Jimmy Carter from 1978 to 1981, and lecturer at Texas Wesleyan University from 1981 to 1990. She is the founder of the Weddington Center, which focuses on women in leadership.

Until 2012 she was a speaker and adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin.[5]

Further reading[edit]

Works by Sarah Weddington
  • A Question of Choice, Smithmark Publishers, Incorporated, 1993, ISBN 9780831753344; Consortium Book Sales & Dist, 2013, ISBN 9781558618121
  • The United States Delegation to the United Nations Mid-Decade Conference for Women, Copenhagen (July 14–30, 1980)
  • The legal status of homemakers in Texas (1997)
  • Weddington, Sarah (March 31, 2003). "Getting the Right to Choose". Time. 
Works with Sarah Weddington as a Contributing Author
  • Guide to women's resources (1980)
  • Honoring a commitment to the people of America : the record of President Jimmy Carter on women's issues (1980)
  • Women in government: your guide to more than 400 top women in the federal government (1979)
  • Roe v. Wade: proceedings of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court (1970s)
  • Barbara Vackar papers (1972–1979)
  • Hermine Tobolowsky collection (1957–1983)
  • Women : a documentary of progress during the administration of Jimmy Carter (1977 to 1981)
  • Texas women in politics (1977)
Works concerning Sarah Weddington
  • Women: a documentary of progress during the administration of Jimmy Carter, 1977 to 1981: Barbara Haugen, editor; from the Office of Sarah Weddington, Assistant to the President, The White House (1981)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal (2010) 'Roe v. Wade'. Brigitte H. Bechtold and Donna Cooper Graves (eds), An Encyclopedia of Infanticide. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, pp. 227-228.
  2. ^ Gottheimer, Josh (2004-08-04). Ripples Of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches. Basic Civitas Books. pp. 362–. ISBN 9780465027538. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  3. ^ McBride, Dorothy E. (2008). Abortion in the United States: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 159–. ISBN 9781598840988. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  4. ^ By David J. Garrow; (1992-09-27). "She Put the v in Roe v. Wade - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  5. ^ a b c Reaves, Jessica (2003-01-16). "Interview: Sarah Weddington". TIME. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  6. ^ McBride, Dorothy E. (2008). Abortion in the United States: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 159. ISBN 9781598840988. 

Resources[edit]

Preceded by
Obsolete district
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 37-2 (Austin)

1973–1977
Succeeded by
Obsolete district
Preceded by
Obsolete district
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from District 37-B (Austin)

1977–1977
Succeeded by
Mary Jane Bode