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Weddington reflects on Roe v. Wade

MARCH 8, 2012
by Mackenzie Fanaro ’14, Contributing Writer

In the 39 years since Sarah Weddington successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, she has seen a great deal of change.

“It is a different world,” said Weddington.

She was not referring to the landmark decision in 1973 that legalized abortion, or the fact that female lawyers are no longer a rarity in court.

She was talking about her cell phone.

On Feb. 28 Weddington spoke to a crowd of students and visitors on Furman’s campus. She made light of forgetting to silence her cell phone and had the audience engaged from the beginning. It was clear during her talk, “Historical Review of Roe v. Wade,” that Weddington was going to share more than the history of the case.

“Every one of you should think about leadership as the willingness and ability to leave your thumbprint,” she said.

The impression that Weddington has made on society is much greater than a thumbprint. Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, she was a natural born leader. She refused to take no for an answer and pushed back barriers that impacted women of her time.

In high school in the early 1960s, Weddington was denied the opportunity to run for president of the study body because of her sex. She became president of the Future Homemakers of America, one of the few things a woman could be president of at the time.

As a college undergraduate, Weddington met with the dean of McMurry University to discuss her plans of applying to law school, only to be told she couldn’t—no woman from McMurry University had ever gone to law school.

She became the first.

“It is impossible to know where you’re going,” said Weddington to a room full of students who spend years planning their futures.

After graduating from law school, she was unable to find a job. She made the most of an opportunity to help a group of women determine the legal consequences of spreading information about contraception. Weddington was willing to help without charging a fee. She headed to the University of Texas law library and filed a lawsuit, never imagining that it would lead her to argue Roe v. Wade at 26 years of age.

Weddington said she realizes that many people disagree with her stance on this controversial issue, and opposition is something she will never be exempt from.

For example, an audience member stood up before the conclusion of her talk and argued that by supporting abortion, Weddington is essentially supporting murder.

The remark seemed to catch everyone by surprise, except Weddington.

She did not need a moment to collect her thoughts. Weddington reverted back to the 26-year-old lawyer that argued Roe v. Wade and said, “Lots of people have laws in their hearts. You do not have a right to force that on other people.”

The man’s response was drowned out by the audience’s applause.

Last updated March 9, 2012
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