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Sarah Catherine Ragle Weddington (February 5, 1945 – December 26, 2021) was an American attorney, law professor, advocate for women's rights and reproductive health, and member of the Texas House of Representatives. She was best known for representing "Jane Roe" (real name Norma McCorvey) in the landmark Roe v. Wade case before the United States Supreme Court. She also was the first woman General Counsel for the US Department of Agriculture.
- In law there are “magic words.” If one of them applies to what you are challenging, you have a good chance of getting it overturned. Linda and I used all the magic words that might possibly apply: The statutes were “vague” and uncertain on their face; they were “unconstitutionally broad” on their face in that they infringed upon plaintiff’s “right to safe and adequate medical advice” about the decision of whether to carry a pregnancy to term, upon the “fundamental” right of all women to choose whether to bear children, and upon plaintiff’s “right to privacy” in the physician-patient relationship; on their face they infringed upon plaintiff’s “right to life” in violation of the due-process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; on their face they violated the “First Amendment” prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion; and on their face they denied plaintiffs the “equal protection of the laws.”
- “A Question of Choice”, New York: Penguin Books, 1993, p.54
- One of the few stories that captured my real feelings on the day we won, however, didn’t appear until a few weeks later, in the Milwaukee Journal: “Sarah Weddington looked uncomfortable as the women pressed close to her, offering their thanks. ‘If I hadn’t done it, someone else would have,’ she explained to them.” Indeed, I saw Roe as part of a much larger effort by many attorneys. I was the one who, through a series of quirks, stood before the Court to represent all of us. Had a different string of events occurred, another case might have been the one to make history.
- “A Question of Choice”, New York: Penguin Books, 1993, p.154
- The problem I see for younger activists is that today it’s harder to get a good job. It’s harder to make the money you need. I mean, we lived so simply. I watch my students and the tuition is so much higher and they’re working two or three jobs trying to support themselves. I think it is harder for people to have the time to be able to do the kinds of work we did, just because we didn’t have as many other demands on us as people who are of college age and a little bit older do.
- In “Winning Roe v. Wade: Q&A with Sarah Weddington”, by Valerie Lapinski, Time, (January 22, 2013)
Quotes about Sarah Weddington
- In an insightful study of the two memoirs, legal scholar Kevin McMunigal argues that Weddington did not adequately inform McCorvey that her chances of receiving an abortion as the Roe plaintiff were slim, thereby allowing the vulnerable McCorvey to believe that being the plaintiff in the case was her most likely ticket to a legal abortion. Doing so, McMunigal states, was a questionable ethical decision on Weddington’s part, as she treated McCorvey as a stand-in for pregnant women as a whole, not as a client with needs and interests of her own. Ultimately, McMunigal maintains that McCorvey should have been treated with comparable ethical standards as patients seeking out medical care or participating in medical research, namely, being provided with comprehensible information about the various strategies open to her from which she would then be able to choose.
- Christianna K. Barnard, “Jane Roe Gone Rogue: Norma McCorvey's Transformation as a Symbol of the U.S. Abortion Debate”, MA thesis, Sarah Lawrence College, May 2018, p.21
- As soon as Sarah Weddington had my name on the affidavit, I had served my purpose...If she told me how and where to get an abortion (or introduced me to people who knew, since, as a lawyer, she might have to cover herself), she wouldn’t have a plaintiff. And without a plaintiff, somebody else might get their case before the Supreme Court first.
- Hays, who is currently a candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, said she remembers Weddington a constant advocate for others.
“She…taught me that you always help somebody out and connect them or open the door for them,” Hays said. “That generosity of spirit is too rare these days.”
- Susan Hays as quoted by Kate McGee in "Sarah Weddington, lawyer in Roe v. Wade case, dies at 76", Texas Tribune, (December 26, 2021)
- 1945 births
- 2021 deaths
- Academics from the United States
- Abortion-rights activists
- Activists from the United States
- Women activists
- Lawyers from the United States
- Women in law
- People from Texas
- Politicians from the United States
- Women's rights activists
- Women politicians in the United States
- Women authors
- Methodists from the United States