DALLAS — Sarah Weddington, a Texas lawyer who as a 26-year-old successfully argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, died Sunday. She was 76.
Susan Hays, Weddington’s former student and colleague, said she died in her sleep early Sunday morning at her Austin home. Hays said that Weddington was in poor health and the cause of her death wasn’t immediately known.
Raised as a minister’s daughter in the West Texas city of Abilene, Weddington attended law school at the University of Texas. After graduating from law school, Weddington and Linda Coffee filed a class action lawsuit in behalf of a woman who was pregnant challenging an unconstitutional state law.
The case of “Jane Roe,” whose real name was Norma McCorvey, was brought against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade and eventually advanced to the Supreme Court.
Weddington presented the case twice before the highest court, once in December 1971, and another time in October 1972. The 7-2 ruling in 1973 legalized abortion in all 50 states.
Weddington’s death comes as the Supreme Court is considering a case over Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy that’s widely considered to be most serious challenge in years to the Roe decision.
While the case was before the court Weddington ran for Austin’s House of Representatives seat. She was elected in 1972 and served three terms as a state lawmaker, before becoming general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and later working as advisor on women’s issues to President Jimmy Carter.
Weddington later wrote a book on Roe v. Wade, gave lectures and taught courses at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Women’s University on leadership, law and gender discrimination. In her latter years she was still active in political and legal affairs. For example, she attended the 2019 signing ceremony for the New York state law that would protect abortion rights in case Roe v. Wade is overturned.