Linda Nellene Coffee was born December 25, 1942. She is an attorney living in Dallas, Texas. Coffee is best known, along with Sarah Weddington, for arguing the precedent-setting United States Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.
Coffee earned a Bachelor of Arts in German from Rice University in 1965 followed by a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Texas in February 1968. She was licensed to practice in Texas three months later, in May 1968.
Once she graduated from law school she worked for the Texas Legislative Council. The Texas Legislative Council does research for the Texas legislature. Coffee was also a clerk for Sarah Hughes, who was a federal judge in Texas. Coffee was a member of the Women's Equity Action League, an organization working toward equal employment opportunities for women. She and Weddington agreed to take McCorvey's case to challenge Texas' anti-abortion law. The resulting decision in 1972 invalidated several laws limiting access to abortions. After Roe, Coffee worked on bankruptcy cases.
Roe v. Wade
Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington argued in favor of Norma McCorvey, also known as Jane Roe, and her right to have an abortion in the case Roe v Wade. Although Weddington is the attorney that is well known for this case, Coffee is the one that started it all by finding Norma McCorvey. This is key as without a pregnant woman they could not have challenged the anti-abortion laws in the United States. Women gaining the right to have an abortion during their first trimester of their pregnancy was a monumental ruling for many reasons. One is that it gives women the ability to have a safe abortion. Prior to this decision by the Supreme Court in places, like Texas, where it was illegal for a doctor to provide an abortion, women would perform abortions themselves which were extremely dangerous or if they could afford to do so they would go to areas where abortion was legal. The anti-abortion laws that existed in the United States before Roe were aimed at the doctors that performed abortions as opposed to the women that wanted abortions. It was argued that a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion because of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Texas law that was challenged allowed women to have an abortion only if the women would die otherwise. It was Coffee that came up with the name Jane Roe. Even though Coffee was instrumental in this case it is Weddington that has received the fame and Coffee has faded into obscurity. According to Joshua Praguer what was important to Coffee was that women were able to get abortions in all of the states, she was not interested in the fame that could have come with Roe.
- Prager, Joshua (19 January 2017). "Roe v. Wade's Secret Heroine Tells Her Story". Vanity Fair. : profile of Coffee
- Garrow, David J. (27 September 1992). "She Put the v in Roe v. Wade". New York Times. : review of A Question of Choice by Sarah Weddington
- Garrow, David J. (1998). Liberty and Sexuality : The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (Updated paperback ed.). University of California Press. p. 1064. ISBN 9780520213029.
- Prager, Joshua. "Exclusive: Roe v. Wade's Secret Heroine Tells Her Story". The Hive. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
- Council, Texas Legislative. "Texas Legislative Council - About the Council". www.tlc.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
- "A History of Key Abortion Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court". Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
- SARAH, WEDDINGTON, (2010-06-15). "ROE V. WADE". tshaonline.org. Retrieved 2017-11-29.