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In Memoriam

Sarah Weddington, lawyer who helped convince the Supreme Court to legalize abortion in Roe, is dead at 76

Sarah Weddington, one of the lawyers who convinced the Supreme Court to recognize a legal right to abortion in the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, died Sunday at her home in Austin, according to a former student, Susan Hays. Weddington was 76 and had been in poor health, but the proximate cause of death isn't known, Hays told The Associated Press

Weddington was a 26-year-old recent graduate from the University of Texas Law School when she and a former classmate, Linda Coffee, brought a class-action lawsuit in 1970 against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade on behalf of Norma McCorvey, identified at the time only as Jane Roe, a pregnant Dallas woman prohibited from terminating her pregnancy under a Texas law. 

Weddington argued before the Supreme Court twice, in December 1971 and October 1972. Seven justices sided with her in 1973, legalizing abortion nationwide. "A lot of people together won Roe v. Wade," Weddington told a group of UT students in 1998. "We give it to you proudly so it can be passed down to other generations." The Supreme Court is expected to significantly weaken or overturn Roe in 2022 and has allowed a Texas law effectively banning most abortions to stay in effect.

Before Roe was decided, Weddington won a Texas state House seat representing the Austin area in 1972. She served three terms before being named the first female general counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, then an adviser to President Jimmy Carter on women's issues. Weddington taught at Texas Women's University and was a professor at UT-Austin for 28 years, the Austin American-Statesman reports

Weddington was raised in Abilene, in West Texas, the daughter of a minister. She will be buried in Austin, in the Texas State Cemetery, not too far from former Gov. Ann Richards (D), she wrote in a 2012 essay in The Texas Observer. "My gravesite is about 50 feet away from hers. Hopefully, when I call the Texas State Cemetery home, we will have great late-night conversations, remembering our battles of the past and celebrating the victories that live after us."