Sarah Weddington, a 26-year-old Texas lawyer, defended the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday. She died on Sunday. She is 76 years old.
Susan Hays, a former student and colleague of Widington, said that she died in her sleep at her home in Austin early on Sunday morning. Hayes told the Associated Press that Widdington has been in poor health for some time and it is not clear what caused her death.
The daughter of a minister grew up in Abilene, a city in western Texas, and Weddington attended the University of Texas Law School. A few years after graduation, she and her former classmate Linda Coffee filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman to challenge a state law that largely prohibits abortion.
“Jane Rowe”‘s real name is Norma McCowey. The case was charged with Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade and eventually entered the Supreme Court.
Widdington debated the case in the High Court twice in December 1971 and October 1972, leading to a 7-2 ruling the following year to legalize abortion nationwide.
At the time of Widdington’s death, the Supreme Court was considering Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is widely regarded as the most serious challenge to Roe’s decision in years.
While the case was being heard in court, Wadeton also ran to represent Austin in the Texas House of Representatives. 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.
Wadeton later wrote a book on Roe v. Wade, teaching leadership, law, and gender discrimination at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Woman’s University. In her later years, she has been active in the political and legal fields, participating in the signing ceremony of the New York State law in 2019, which aims to protect the right to abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned.
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