Many people will keep papers, baseball cards or food in their drawers. Sarah Weddington, a lawyer from Abilene, Texas, keeps copy of Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court case she successfully argued at the age of 26 with a 7-2 decision, signed by all nine presiding justices.
Weddington spoke to a group of students and supporters in the local area last night to talk about the path she took that led her to win the famous case, as well as current women’s health issues still being faced today across the country.
“I look back and I think about how determined we were to make a bigger space for women to live in,” Weddington said. “There were so many limits on what women could do, what their dreams were and we were determined to push back those barriers.”
The event was sponsored by Womanspace, which according to the organization’s former president Jen Porter, is the only women’s political feminist activism group at Virginia Tech.
“They were planning on bringing her to speak to Roanoke in order to do a few fundraisers,” Porter, a first-year geography graduate student, said.
“But it didn’t seem right to only bring her for a day and only go to one or two events. So we extended the contract a little bit, Womanspace put some money in to help with costs and we got an event here at Virginia Tech, so we can cover donors in both Roanoke and Blacksburg, but also bring students into the mix.”
Her lecture was in conjuncture with various women’s rights events occurring this week, including the main event tonight on the Drillfield, Take Back the Night.
The room was full of students from universities around the area, members of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate and local supporters, many of whom were activists during the height of the women’s rights movement.
Roe v. Wade was argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court twice — once in 1971 and again in 1973. Although the plaintiff in the case was a Texas woman under the fake name Jane Roe, who wished to get an abortion in Texas but was refused the right, Weddington said the case for her began much earlier while she was at the University of Texas.
“It was partially looking at all the ways women were limited,” Weddington said. “One of the ways that was most frustrating was the issue of contraception and abortion. The University of Texas in 1969 at the health center had a policy that no women could have contraception unless it was certified that she was within six weeks of marriage.”