Friday, November 10, 2000 Volume 66, Issue 59


 
 









 

Roe v. Wade plaintiff lawyer challenges 1973 abortion suit

Plaintiff lawyers outline issues they feel argue for overturning Roe v. Wade

By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff

Abortion is a health and safety issue for women, said a lawyer who represented the woman plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

The plaintiff is now working to have that decision overturned.

Sharon Blakeney of Texas Justice Foundation, a nonprofit public interest litigation firm based in San Antonio, spoke Wednesday at a forum in the UH Law Center's Krost Auditorium.

Blakeney, a 1997 graduate of the UH Law Center, said the Texas Justice Foundation is representing Norma McCorvey, the woman who went by the pseudonym "Jane Roe" in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and Sandra Cano-Saucedo, who was "Mary Doe" in the companion case Doe v. Bolton.

Blakeney and Clayton Trotter, the foundation's general counsel, outlined the issues they felt argue for overturning the Roe v. Wade decision to members of the law center's Federalist Society student organization.

"We now know that abortion doubles the risk to women of developing breast cancer and that risk is even greater for women who undergo the procedure before reaching age 18," Blakeney said.

"There is also a greater incidence of nervous disorders and depression -- the suicide rate is seven times greater in the year following a depression than it is for women who come to term," she said.

McCorvey and Cano-Saucedo, who Blakeney said have never had abortions, now claim they were manipulated when they were young by their lawyers, who were pursuing their own political objective of legalizing abortion.

McCorvey and Cano-Saucedo have filed friends of the court affidavits in a federal lawsuit, which challenges the Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.

In that federal lawsuit, Donna Santa Marie et. al. v. Christine Todd Whitman et. al., a New Jersey woman claims that when she was 16, her parents demanded she get an abortion. They took her to a clinic where she was forced to undergo the procedure.

She sued in New Jersey court charging the doctor who performed the abortion with assault and depriving her of parental rights. The court, citing the Roe v. Wade decision, ruled that she had no such rights because, under the law, the fetus was not a child.

Trotter explained that the woman's lawyers hope to challenge the Roe v. Wade decision citing the Supreme Court's ruling in the "Baby M" case from the 1980.

In that case, a woman who had been paid to serve as a surrogate mother and carry another couple's fetus sued to assert her own parental rights.

The court ruled that a woman cannot waive her parental rights until after the child is born because, before then, she does not know what she is giving up.

"Abortion is not a right granted by the Constitution," Trotter said. "Abortion is the waiver of a woman's right to a relationship with her child."

He also said the current body of law concerning abortion is "schizophrenic" and "very, very fluid."

Professor Sidney Buchanan, a scholar of constitutional law at the UH Law Center, served as a commentator at the forum and challenged many of the points made by Blakeney and Trotter.

"I would suspect that for every woman who has experienced the difficulties that (Blakeney) was describing with respect to having an abortion, there have been countless women who have experienced difficulties from feeling and accepting the pressure of coming to term," Buchanan said.

Buchanan also took issue with Blakeney's claim that the Supreme Court has said that the Roe v. Wade decision is not "good law."

Buchanan said that in the Court's latest decision relating to abortion, it affirmed the "central holding of Roe v. Wade, that the state may not prohibit anyone from making the decision" to have an abortion. 

Buchanan quoted the current opinion of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman on the Constitutional justifications for the Roe v. Wade decision:

"State restrictions on abortions violate a woman's right to privacy in two ways. First, compelled continuation of pregnancy impinges on a woman's right to bodily integrity."

"Further, (prohibiting abortion) defies the woman's right to make her own decisions about reproduction and family planning."
 

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