Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who successfully argued for “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v. Wade case before the Supreme Court, passed away Sunday morning. News of her death first broke in a tweet posted by her close personal friend Susan Hays, who is a Democratic attorney currently running for Texas Ag Commissioner. Ms. Weddington’s death has also been confirmed by cousin Pete Weddington, who said “the cause of death has not yet been determined,” in a statement.
“With Linda Coffee, she filed the first case of her legal career, Roe v. Wade, fresh out of law school. She was my professor at UT, the best writing instructor I ever had, and a great mentor,” said Ms. Hays in a tweet. Ms. Weddington argued Roe v. Wade, at the age of 26, making her the youngest lawyer to argue before the Supreme Court.
Ms. Weddington was born in 1945 to a Methodist Minister in Abilene, Tex. She earned her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, where she was among 40 women in a class of 1600. According to what Ms. Weddington’s book, she traveled to Mexico in 1967 during her third year at law school to receive an illegal abortion.
Ms. Coffee and Ms. Weddington attended law school together but did not become close until after they graduated. Following law school, Ms. Coffee and Ms. Weddington joined forces to represent Norma McCorvey, a pregnant woman in Dallas seeking an abortion and known by her alias, “Jane Roe.” According to Fox News, Norman McCorvey reversed her position and became a pro-life advocate later in life.
“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,” Ms. Coffee wrote to Ms. Weddington in a letter dated Dec. 4, 1969, reported the Dallas Morning News.
Ms. Weddington first argued the case before an all-male supreme court at the age of 26, on December 13, 1971. The case was argued for a second time by Ms. Weddington almost a year later on October 11, 1972. The case came down 7-2 in favor of Ms. Weddington on January 23, 1973, in a landmark case that effectively legalized abortion.
After winning Roe V. Wade in 1973, she was elected to the Texas house of representatives, where she served three terms. Ms. Weddington continued her career in politics serving in the Department of Agriculture in 1977 and later served as assistant to President Jimmy Carter from 1978-81, directing the administration’s work on women’s issues.
Ms. Weddington’s death comes amidst the Supreme Court’s consideration of Thomas Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, which has the potential to reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade case. Dobbs v. Jackson focuses on the question of “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” reports Fox News.
“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,” Ms. Weddinton told Texas Monthly in 2003.