As Jen and others have already noted, tonight Planned Parenthood is holding an event at Town Hall featuring Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who successfully argued Roe v. Wade in 1973, at the tender age of 26.
I'll be interviewing Weddington on stage tonight, but unfortunately, the event is already sold out.
However, last week Weddington and I had a brief phone chat, during which we discussed how to talk about abortion with conservative Christians, how full of shit Time magazine is, and more. Enjoy.
You argued the case for abortion successfully in the court of law, but in many states, religion and morality are their own, nearly insurmountable arguments. What is the most compelling case for abortion that people can make to religious conservatives?
There are some people who are so mired in their own religion, there’s no argument you can make. My focus has been on people who have somewhat of an open mind. For those people, the argument, the focus we should be stressing is what we know of life before Roe. If abortion were to be illegal again, the only thing we know for certain is that there would be illegal abortions. We’re talking about women ending up in real trouble—bleeding, hemorrhaging, infections, incomplete abortions. What we need to get across better is that abortion is a private decision that people need to decide for themselves, not the government and not Rush Limbaugh.
I think it made a striking cover and probably increased their sales. But no, I do not believe it. I think what has happened is that you have a larger group, as with the Tea Party, who are absolutely adamant that there be no right to privacy, no right to access abortions. And on the other side, you have supporters in their 50s and 60s who remember life before Roe and are adamant that those services be provided. And then there's the problem we’re finding with the new generations: They don’t know what it was like pre-Roe and so can’t imagine it being that way again. Our challenge is reaching out and getting them energized about this issue.
Did conservatives try to shame you you during Roe v. Wade? How did you combat that pressure?
Actually, no, because they didn’t think I could possibly win, partly because I was so young and partly because the law against abortion had been here in Texas for 100 years. So there were certainly a variety of people trying to ensure the Supreme Court didn’t vote in my favor, but most just didn’t think it was possible.
In the last 40 years—and granted, I've only been around for 30 of them—it does seem that the opposition has gotten more adept at using shame as one tool to keep women from accessing abortion services or even discussing abortions. Talking about a legal, although personal, medical procedure is seen as a brave political act. How do we counter that?
You know, I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll have to think about it. Among my friends, we all agree that there’s no shame in talking about abortion.
Abortion is also viewed as a women’s issue, even though women aren't out impregnating each other. How do we get men—other than, you know, Republican rape apologists—more engaged in the conversation?
If I look back at Roe, it was mostly women who were directly involved in working with me—doing research, mock courts, etc. I think today is reflective of the way it was. I bet there are organizations that are trying to do more, to have events for younger people, men and women, to reach those groups that currently don't view themselves as part of the discussion, pull them into the fold. There are places that have counseling for men when their women are considering abortion. There are pastors, most of them men. I wouldn't look at the past 40 years with such a negative lens. I'd say that it's only been 40 years now, and given that, real progress has been made.