DALLAS — “Roe v. Wade” is a case known around the country. But it starts in our very own backyard.
“The lawsuit was tried in Dallas in a courtroom that still exists as a catering venue in the old post office building on Ervay St.,” SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman said. “So, it very much was a local case and involved local personalities.”
Forty-eight years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, we know much more about “Jane Roe:” Her real name is Norma McCorvey.
The Dallas County resident was pregnant at the time. And she wanted an abortion.
“She had had two children, both of whom were not being raised by her at the time of this pregnancy,” Grossman said. “She definitely struggled with poverty, so she had done some pretty hard living and was in a pretty desperate situation when she ended up encountering the lawyers who decided that she would be the appropriate plaintiff for this case.”
Eventually, “Jane Roe” met her two Dallas attorneys: Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee.
“They were well-respected lawyers who were looking to challenge abortion laws,” Grossman said.
Shortly after three federal judges in Dallas ruled that the state’s law banning abortion was unconstitutional, Coffee told our WFAA cameras that women would now have more options.
“She can have an abortion and assuming that she has it in Texas, she need no longer suffer any kind of guilt feelings because of (sic) the supposed fact that she is committing an illegal act,” Coffee said in an interview in June 1970.
Interestingly enough, McCorvey would eventually change her stance on abortion.
“Norma McCorvey later ended up getting involved in the anti-abortion movement and coming out against abortion,” Grossman said. “It's sort of not always clear from the outside whether she was being used by the anti-abortion movement or was being used by the pro-choice movement because I think she, at different times in her life, played a role in both.”
As for the “Wade” in Roe v. Wade, Henry Wade was “a longstanding District Attorney in Dallas with a sort of tough justice attitude and personality,” Grossman said.
During his tenure, Wade was extensively involved in the Kennedy assassination investigation.