Sarah Weddington, who successfully represented Jane Roe in Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court abortion case, remembers the day in 1973 she received the Court's 7-2 decision via telegram.
"In some ways it reminds me of how long ago it was, and yet, the need for people to protect their own fertility is timeless," recalled Weddington, said to have been the youngest person ever to win a case before the Supreme Court.
Her career since has shifted to teaching at the University of Texas at Austin and speaking on issues of women and leadership. She visited Oklahoma in January to help Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma celebrate its 70th anniversary.
HER FIRST BIG CASE
Before Roe vs. Wade, Weddington had limited legal experience. As a 25-year-old recent law school graduate, she had worked only on:
" uncontested divorces,
" wills, and
" an adoption for her uncle.
While she knew the decision would have a huge impact on women and their ability to make decisions, she said she underestimated its political significance.
Today, Roe vs. Wade is considered among the most important Supreme Court cases for its effect on abortion laws. Time magazine listed the day it was decided as one of the "80 Days That Changed the World."
'A TIME TO CELEBRATE'
Despite political challenges, Weddington insists that "it's a time to celebrate" women's reproductive freedom.
She points to several state referenda in the last election that rejected proposals to outlaw abortion.
"I've always felt that the great majority of citizens did not want the government making the most private decisions of their lives," she said. "I think sometimes we feel that there are so many challenges today, but the truth is that we have accomplished so much." "Rachel Pollack
" 1968 "? Weddington decides to run for Texas Legislature.
" 1972 "? Weddington is elected the first female state representative from Austin, Texas. She is one of only five women among 150 representatives.
" 1971 "? Weddington first argues Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court. Because only seven justices are on the bench at the time, she is asked to return the following year.
" 1972 "? Weddington returns to court with "spiffed-up" answers and more statistical data.
" Jan. 22, 1973 "? In its Roe vs. Wade judgment, the Supreme Court decides anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional.
" 1978 "? Weddington is appointed general counsel for the United States Department of Agriculture and then named special assistant to President Jimmy Carter.