Washington (AFP) – Sarah Weddington, who successfully argued the landmark Roe v. Wade case that enshrined abortion as a legal right in the United States, died Sunday aged 76, according to a former student and media reports.
In 1973, Weddington argued on behalf of plaintiff Norma McCorvey — known by the pseudonym “Jane Roe” — against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade in the US Supreme Court.
The top court ultimately ruled that access to abortion was a constitutional right — striking down restrictive state laws.
Weddington is believed to have been one of youngest people ever to win a case before the US’ top court.
She died “after a series of health issues”, former student Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner Susan Hays said on Twitter.
Abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly 50 years but remains a bitterly contentious issue, and access to the procedure varies from state to state.
Legal observers expect the conservative-dominated Supreme Court to also overturn Roe v. Wade next year, which would pave the way for total bans at the state level.
In 1998, Weddington expressed alarm when state-led abortion limitations mushroomed nationwide.
“I think of Roe v. Wade as a house that’s sitting on the edge of a beach, where the water is coming under it and taking the sand out,” she said.
“The house is still standing there, but it is more and more in danger of collapsing in the water.”