Lawyer Behind Roe Worried About Keeping Abortion Legal Under Trump: “It’s Really Frightening”

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 29, 2016   |   11:02AM   |   Washington, DC

Sarah Weddington, the Texas lawyer and abortion activist who argued for abortion in Roe v. Wade, says she is frightened by President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to make pro-life decisions.

In an interview with New York Magazine, Weddington said she fears that, although Trump’s actions would not overturn Roe v. Wade immediately, they could have a huge impact on the future of abortion in the U.S.

“For a lot of us who have been pro-choice through the years and have been involved in trying to keep it so that women have that choice, I think it’s really frightening, because it’s not immediate. Right now, nothing has changed. The president is opposed to abortion, but the law has not changed yet. And so once Trump is president, and once Pence does occupy the [president of the Senate’s] chair, then you’ve got the possibility for dramatic change,” Weddington said.

Trump promised to appoint “pro-life” justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, opening up the possibility of the court reconsidering the infamous abortion case in the future.

Weddington, 71, said she will not stop fighting for abortion on demand and Roe v. Wade.

“I am so determined that when we talk about women having the right to make decisions about their own lives, that abortion and reproductive issues are one of the things that most determines a woman’s future and options in many ways. I am so determined that Roe v. Wade be upheld,” Weddington told the magazine.

Weddington related a story about what happened on Jan. 22, 1973, the day the court handed down its decision on Roe:

Though it took months for the case to be decided, the law was instantly changed — “like a lightning strike” — as soon as the opinion was released. “Here in Austin, there was a doctor who had gotten the equipment to do abortions and he hadn’t done any because of the Texas law,” Weddington said. “But once Roe v. Wade was decided, he had one of his patients who happened to be a professor in the nursing school here at UT who was leaving that afternoon to go to California to get an abortion. He called her and said, ‘Wait, you don’t have to go to California. I can do it for you here in my office.’ So she came in that afternoon and he did her procedure. That’s how quick the change was.”

The liberal news outlet credited Weddington as an instrumental voice in the appointment of liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the high court, and called her a “champion of women’s rights.”

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But Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), Weddington’s client in Roe v. Wade, paints a very different picture of her former abortion activist lawyer. In her autobiography, McCorvey, who later became pro-life, said she felt like Weddington used her.

McCorvey said she met with Weddington and another attorney several times, but they never contacted her after she signed the affidavit that resulted in Roe v. Wade. Later, McCorvey said she read about the case outcome in the newspaper.

“Back in 1973, I was a very confused twenty-one year old with one child and facing an unplanned pregnancy,” she said in 2013. “At the time I fought to obtain a legal abortion, but truth be told, I have three daughters and never had an abortion.”

McCorvey was “pro-choice” on abortion at the time of the case, but she never actually had the abortion. Instead, she made an adoption plan for her baby. She said Weddington used her case to push her own abortion crusade, which was not something McCorvey wanted to pursue in court.

After becoming pro-life, McCorvey began working to reverse the infamous abortion case. In 2005, she petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, arguing that she had standing to do so as one of the original litigants and that there was new evidence that the procedure harms women. A court denied her petition.