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Lawyer and Roe now work on different ends of abortion issue

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

DALLAS -- They were on the same side 30 years ago, fighting for the right of women to get an abortion. But attorney Sarah Weddington and one-time abortion rights poster girl Norma McCorvey have sharply contrasting views today.

Weddington, the lawyer who tried the Roe v. Wade case and became an icon of the women's rights movement, is worried that, with the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today, anti-abortion forces are gaining political strength.

"It's melancholy celebration," Weddington said. "I am more concerned today about the future of Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose than ever before."

McCorvey -- the "Jane Roe" of the case -- has converted to Roman Catholicism and became an anti-abortion activist since the landmark ruling.

"I have a great deal of hope that it will be overturned," said McCorvey, sitting in her Dallas living room, which is papered with images of Jesus, anti-abortion posters, books and bumper stickers.

The two women who made history together no longer talk.

McCorvey said she is praying for the woman she once idolized. Weddington said McCorvey's change of heart has no bearing on the case. But during a recent interview, Weddington expressed curiosity about her former client.

"What's Jane Roe saying these days?" she asked.

Weddington herself yearns to move on. After Roe, she became a state lawmaker, then a general counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an assistant to President Jimmy Carter, and an author. Now living in Austin, she is a cancer survivor involved in cancer research. She still gives speeches about abortion but wants to focus on writing about women in leadership roles.

McCorvey's focus, however, hasn't strayed from the anti-abortion fight since she shocked the abortion-rights community in 1995 by joining the group, Operation Rescue.

McCorvey had originally said she needed an abortion because she had been raped but later said she lied, and put her child up for adoption. In 1994, she published an autobiography that disclosed a past including dysfunctional parents, petty crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, an abusive husband, a second unwed pregnancy, attempted suicide and lesbianism.

She gives speeches about her experiences and heads her own small ministry called "Roe No More," which tries to dissuade pregnant women from considering abortion. She said each anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a reminder of her involvement in a decision she detests.


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