Attorney in the Roe v. Wade case promotes women’s leadership
- Mar. 29, 2012
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Almost 40 years ago, Sarah Weddington won, Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in states across the country.
Tuesday night, she spoke to students at Woodruff Auditorium about women’s rights and leadership.
Weddington spoke at the invitation of the Hall Center for Humanities.
Kansas State Representative Barbara Ballard helped organize the event, and said controversies over reproductive rights and contraceptives — ongoing in some state legislatures—made this week an opportune time to hear Weddington’s story.
“She won one of the most contentious court cases in this country’s history,” Ballard said.
Weddington was only 26 years old when she became a lead attorney the Roe v. Wade lawsuit, which invalidated all state laws limiting women’s access to abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. Before that 1973 Supreme Court ruling, abortion was limited in many states and entirely illegal in others.
“I was the only person willing to do the case for free, so I did it,” Weddington said.
Weddington said she learned something about women’s struggle for equality in college, but it wasn’t new to her. As a student at McMurray University, in Abilene, Texas,
Weddington was discouraged from running for president of the class. She said a male administrator at the university told her that men were presidents, and women were secretaries.
She said the administrator also discouraged her from going to law school, saying that no woman from McMurray had ever gone to law school because it would be to difficult to succeed there.
Weddington, of course, did go to law school. She became one of five women in her class at the University of Texas.
“After he told me it was too tough, that was the moment I decided I was going,” Weddington said.
Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center, said Weddington blazed a path for women and provided a role model for women leaders in America. He said that, even today, women often are passed over for top leadership posts even when they have essential talents and skills.
Weddington said prospects for women have improved since her college days.
“There were so many different things that women could not do when I was young. I just keep trying to push back barriers so women have a bigger arena in life,” she said.
Weddington said she speaks at venues like the University because she wants young women to know that they, too, can make a difference and better the future of the nation. “Part of leadership and preparing for leadership is practice. There were a lot of opportunities that happened because I was willing to take a risk,” Weddington said.
“Leadership is the willingness and ability to leave your thumb print.”
Weddington left her thumb print, and urges young women to leave theirs.
“Some leaders, are born women,” she said.
Weddingtion still holds pro-choice opinions on abortion and worries about efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Edited by Ian Cummings
Hannah Barling is a sophomore from Arkansas majoring in journalism. Read more from Hannah Barling.