Sarah Weddington, lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, dies at 76

Sarah Weddington
Associated Press

Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who successfully argued the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights case in front of the Supreme Court, died on Sunday at the age of 76.

Weddington’s former student Susan Hays told The Texas Tribune that she died in her sleep in Austin. She had been in poor health and the cause of her death is not immediately clear, Hays said.

Weddington, at the age of 26, first argued the Roe v. Wade class-action lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court in December of 1971 then again in October of 1972. Her arguments resulted in the 7-2 ruling that made abortions legal nationwide.

In 1992, Weddington detailed the case, which she argued with her law school classmate Linda Coffee, in her book “A Question of Choice.”

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas put out a statement following Weddington’s death, calling her a “key figure in the abortion rights movement.”

“Sarah Weddington was a key figure in the abortion rights movement in our country. Her fight at the Supreme Court secured our right to abortion with Roe v. Wade,” Planned Parenthood said on Twitter. “We are fortunate for leaders like her, and will continue to honor her legacy in our fight for reproductive rights.”

Weddington also served as a Texas state representative, serving in the state House from 1972-1977 as a Democrat before becoming general counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Carter administration. She went on to become the first woman to head the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations.

Hays remembered her mentor as being an advocate for others, telling the Tribune, “She … taught me that you always help somebody out and connect them or open the door for them.”

“That generosity of spirit is too rare these days,” she said.

Weddington’s death comes as the Supreme Court is considering a case from Mississippi that experts call the strongest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade. A majority of the Supreme Court justices seem ready to consider allowing the Mississippi law that would outright ban all abortions after 15 weeks.

Tags Abortion Planned Parenthood Roe v. Wade Texas

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