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= . _ the 1965 Supreme Court case that overturned the Connecticut law against birth control. \(“I ran to find Ron…. ‘Can you believe that birth conered that state abortion laws were being challenged in federal courts across the country. It was Judy Smith’s idea to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Texas anti-abortion law. Smith, who was excited by Weddington’s legal research and despairing of ever changing the Texas abortion law through the Texas Legislature, presented her idea to Weddington and her husband in the UT law school snack bar. It was the fall of 1969. Smith asked Weddington to take the case and to work for free. Weddington was 24 years old. She was two years out of law school and had never argued a contested case. Her legal experience was a few simple wills, uncontested divorces for friends, one adoption for relatives and “a few miscellaneous matters.” She was “not really practicing law.” And that is one reason she took the case “I was restless,” she wrote. She was terrified of losing such a crucial case, but she wanted to use her legal training to help other women. She ticks off the reasons it made sense to take the case: She and Ron lived frugally; she did not think that her “mother and daddy” would object to her doing abortion rights work; she felt that her UT law Weddington recruited a co-counsel, Linda Coffee of Dallas, and enlisted the help of Ron and some friends as researchers. They needed a plaintiff a pregnant Texas woman who wanted an abortion. Linda Coffee found Norma McCorvey, a young waitress and mother in Dallas, who became “Jane Roe.” Weddington met her in a Dallas pizza place and “found her street-smart and likable.” McCorvey signed a one-page affidavit and never appeared in court. Jane Roe sued then-Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, who enforced the abortion law, in federal district court on March 3, 1970. The case was heard on May 22 by a panel of three judges, one of whom was “legendary Texas woman” Sarah T. Hughes, the progressive federal judge appointed by John F. Kennedy. Weddington won. The judges declared the Texas abortion laws unconstitutional, but they refused to enjoin the district attorney from enforcing the law. Henry Wade immediately announced that he would continue to prosecute doctors who did abortions. Henry Wade, the drawling, cigar-chomping, big-bellied Dallas D.A., had unwittingly done the abortion rights movement a huge favor. Weddington explains, “It was procedurally possible to go straight to the Supreme Court if a lower federal court had declared a state law unconstitutional yet local authorities continued to enforce the law.” The appeal was filed, and Weddington rejoiced when Roe v. Wade was set for argument before the Supreme Court in its 1971 session. Support came quickly from dozens of people around Texas and the nation, who provided research, money and encouragement. By this time Weddington and her husband had moved to Fort Worth, where she was hired as an assistant city attorney. Her boss, a man named S.G. Johndroe Jr., was proud to have hired the first woman assistant city attorney. But when he found out that she was taking Roe to the Supreme Court, he called her into his office and silently scribbled a note: “`No more women’s lib. No more abortion.’ After much discussion, she and Ron quit their jobs, returned to Austin and set up a law practice together. Weddington spent the summer and fall of 1971 preparing to go to the Supreme Court that December. She and Ron wrote the legal brief; she typed it herself. They studied the justices, whom they called “the Supremes.” She examined every new court case on abortion and practiced endlessly in moot court, often with UT law professors: “I am not sure whether all of them wanted me to win, or whether they just enjoyed pretending they were on the Supreme Court.” Her account of the Supreme Court hearing of Roe v. Wade on Dec. 13,1971, is full of pleasure for the reader, whom she lets in on how was like \(“absolutely packed…. there was electricity in .the air … on the lectern was a ‘cheat sheet,’ with a diagram of the justices’ seating justices, she argued constitutional rights, the right to abortion as basic to women’s control of our lives and the absence of states’ interest in outlawing abortion. She pointed out that self-induced abortion was not a crime in Texas and that abortion was not murder; the woman was considered the victim. Jay Floyd, an assistant Texas Attorney General, argued the other side. He tried to establish that Jane Roe, as she was no longer pregnant, had no right to sue. A justice asked him how any pregnant woman in Texas could ever test the constitutionality of the state abortion law in court \(assuming that by the time the case reached court she would “There are some situations in which no remedy is provided,” answered Floyd. “Now, I think she makes her choice prior to the time she becomes pregnant. That is the time of the choice.” “Maybe she makes her choice when she decides to live in Texas!” the justice replied. After the argument Weddington went home to Texas, not to wait around for the decision, but to run for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. She was the first woman representative elected to represent Travis County and served three terms. She was sworn in on Jan. 9, 1973 at the age of 27. On Jan. 22, at 10 in the morning, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Roe v. Wade. “By a vote of 7 to 2,” Weddington writes, “the Texas anti-abortion statutes had been ruled unconstitutional as violating the constitutional right of privacy.” Abortion was legal in the United States. I have always assumed that it was inevitable in the early 1970s that one of the several state anti-abortion laws would be challenged as unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court and that if Sarah Weddington had not done it, someone else would have. She concurs: “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.” But I realize now that this notion masks Weddington’s individual brilliance and dedication. She must receive credit for her very deliberate decision to litigate and for her tremendous work, courage and sacrifice. Weddington’s writing is consistently clean, interesting and alive. Her book is filled with detail but never burdened with it. She knows how to tell a story. She has a gift for explaining legal procedures and arguments in layperson’s terms. I never tripped over or felt left out of her narrative. The book loses some of its fire after Roe is decided, but that is not Weddington’s fault. Her years with the Carter Administration and working to protect reproductive rights simply cannot have the drama of a landmark Supreme Court victory. A few spots in the book chafed. Twice she refers to her former husband, Ron Weddington, as smarter than her. I could not buy it. And her condemnation of Clarence Thomas is too tepid she feels that only Thomas and Anita Hill know the whole story of “what happened between them,” implying that Hill was dishonest. I found the title of the book uninspiring, and for some reason the editor dropped the standard top-ofpage notation of the chapter title, which is irritating to the reader. In the last third of the book, Weddington recounts with chilling detail the erosion of the right to safe abortion won in 1973. Congress’ Hyde Amendment denies publicly funded abortions to poor women and the Department of Health and Human Services gag rule forbids federally funded clinics to inform women about abortion; both have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Roe survived by only one vote in June of this year when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Weddington notes that if Robert Bork were on the Supreme Court now, Roe would be gone. In a final chapter, Weddington writes, “Already people are talking about the best arrangements for women if abortion becomes illegal…. I hear talk about setting up a new abortion underground pill RU-486.” Before I became a mother, I had wondered if being pregnant and bearing a child would change my view on abortion. I knew all of the good reasons for safe, legal abortion that all methods of birth control fail some of the time, that the answer to the question of when human life or consciousness begins is too nebulous to legislate, that we must have control over our reproductive systems or they will dictate our lives. A man I met once who was a child-abuse investigator told me that he had concluded that safe, readily available abortion \(such as poor women solution to the horrors he had seen. Even then, I thought that perhaps, as a new life grew in my own body, I’d feel different about abortion. The opposite happened. Throughout my pregnancy, which was joyous and miserable, I knew with utter certainty that a woman should only carry a pregnancy to term because she wants to. Praise be to Sarah Weddington. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15