Lawyer Sarah Weddington who successfully argued Roe v. Wade dead at 76

On Sunday, Roe v. Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington passed away in her sleep at the age of 76. As a 26-year-old, Weddington successfully argued the landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, after which the Court ruled in favor of nationwide abortion access. 

Weddington’s former student and colleague, Susan Hays, confirmed her death, saying she died in her sleep early on Sunday morning in her Austin home. While not immediately made clear what caused her death, Hays said Weddington’s health had been deteriorating for some time. 

Weddington was raised as the daughter of a minister in Abilene, a city in West Texas, and she attended law school at the University of Texas. A few years following her graduation, she and a former classmate, Linda Coffee, brought forth a class-action lawsuit on behalf of pregnant women who wanted to challenge a state law that banned most abortions.

The case of Norma McCorvey, who was named in the lawsuit as Jane Roe, was brought against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade before advancing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was argued before the Court in December 1971 and October 1972 by Weddington, which resulted in the 7-2 ruling the following year. 

In 1972, Weddington was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and served three terms as a state lawmaker before she became general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture then working as an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter on women’s issues.

Later in life, Weddington wrote a book on Roe v. Wade, gave lectures and taught courses at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Woman’s University on leadership, law, and gender discrimination.

But now, the landmark case is facing the possibility of being overturned, as the Supreme Court is currently considering a case over Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban. The case is considered to be the most serious challenge to the Roe decision in several years. 

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