In the controversial case, Roe v. Wade, a pregnant woman who was given the name Jane Roe to hide her identity attempted to get an abortion but they were illegal in Texas so she sued the state for invasion of privacy. Roe’s real name is Norma McCorvey, she was an ex-carnival worker who was raped and became pregnant. In 1969, when she moved back to her home state, she was denied and abortion on grounds that her health was not threatened. She started to look for other options, such as an abortion clinic out of the country, but those were too risky. She had given up searching for a safe, clinical abortion when two lawyers contacted her about her story.
These lawyers were Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington. Weddington had herself been through the search for an abortion clinic that was decent. She was lucky, she was able to live in Mexico for several weeks and could pay the high price for a safe abortion. Weddington did not want others to go through the insecurity of an illegal abortion like she had. Coffee was a practiced lawyer who was a strong supporter of abortions. John and Mary Doe, a couple that had offered their services in a previous abortion case, approached Coffee and Weddington who quickly included them in the case.
Coffee and Wellington made a perfect couple to head up the fight against the District Attorney of Texas, Henry Wade. Wade had been the District Attorney for twenty years and on March 6, 1970 he received the paper that stated Jane Roe and John and Mary Doe were suing him. He had shown many times before his firm beliefs in preserving the Texas abortion laws. Henry Wade chose one of his most capable lawyers, John Tolle, to defend him in this suit.
Coffee and Weddington went off the argument that, “A woman is guaranteed the right to an abortion by her constitutional right to privacy. No state could interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion which was a private matter.” (Herda, 31) They based this on the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and fourteenth amendments. The first amendment protects a person’s right to freedom of speech, which had been violated when a doctor was not aloud to talk to their patient about all forms of treatment. Coffee and Weddington stated that the fourth amendment, which protects a citizen from unreasonable search and seizure, should protect a person from being unlawfully questioned about their contraception.
The Fifth Amendment creates “zones of privacy (Axelrod, #) around citizens, which are safeguarded and should not be violated by the government. Coffee and Weddington used the eighth amendment which guards against cruel and unusual punishment, in this case placed by forcing a woman to go through the pregnancy of a child that was conceived through rape. The lawyers thought that this was not the strongest reason but it was worthwhile to put in. The ninth amendment, another risky one, defined legal grounds for acknowledging a person’s right to privacy.
The fourteenth amendment, which was the strongest case, prohibited vaguely written or confusing laws. The Texas abortion laws stated that doctors could perform legal abortions when “life threatening” conditions were involved. Since life threatening can be interpreted different ways, one being deadly and the other being ruining a life, these laws were exceedingly vague. Once these were submitted to the court in the argument, Dr. James Hallford who had been sued by Wade for performing illegal abortions requested to be in the case. This was a tremendously helpful addition for the prosecution because they also have the physician’s side.
Henry Wade who was an extreme abortionist was represented by Tolle who held the same views. Tolle had four main points to attack the prosecution with. The first was his view that “a fetus has just as much right to live as the mother” (Herda, 37). The state only prosecutes abortion performers, not those who attempt to receive or receive abortions. This second point was deterred when Dr. Hallford joined the prosecution. He replied to the vagueness issue by stating that the laws had been on the books for a century and no one had challenged it so far. Tolle’s last goal was to learn Jane Roe’s real identity because he felt that if it were publicized, that information would win the case for him. With both of the arguments stated and the representatives in place, the initial trial began.
There were several appearances in court for this case, which resulted in three rulings, the last one being in the Supreme Court. The Dallas Texas court threw out the case on the conclusion that the plaintiffs had no right to sue. Then Roe’s lawyers went to their first appeals court, which ruled on June 17, 1970 that the Does had no right to sue but Jane Roe and Dr. Hallford had a reasonable case with the right to sue.
The appellant’s and appellee’s had specific arguments when the second appeal came around. The appellant’s argued that the ninth and fourteenth amendments strongly support the right to abortion.