Respects Paid to Sarah Weddington, Roe v. Wade Lawyer: 'A Texas Giant'

Tributes have been paid to Sarah Weddington, the Texas lawyer who won the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights case, following her death aged 76.

Susan Hays, Weddington's former student and a Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner, wrote on Twitter that the famed attorney died in her sleep on Sunday morning in her Austin home, after suffering "a series of health issues."

"With Linda Coffee she filed the first case of her legal career, Roe v. Wade, fresh out of law school," Hayes wrote in a series of tweets. "She was my professor at [the University of Texas], the best writing instructor I ever had, and a great mentor.

"At 27 she argued Roe to SCOTUS. (A fact that always made me feel like a gross underachiever.). Ironically, she worked on the case because law firms would not hire women in the early 70s, leaving her with lots of time for good trouble.

"Those career doors shut to her led her to run for office, getting elected as the first woman from Travis County in the [Texas legislature] in 1972 (along with 4 other women elected to the House: Kay Bailey, Chris Miller, Betty Andujar & Senfronia Thompson)."

Hays added in a follow-up tweet that Weddington's "poise, her grace, and her composure still blows students away."

As news of Weddington's passing circulated, a number of people from the fields of politics and law took to Twitter to share their own tributes.

Texas State Rep. John Bucy III, a Democrat, posted a photo of himself posing with Weddington, writing: "Sarah Weddington was a Texas giant. From litigating Roe v. Wade, to serving in the Texas House, to supporting countless women in politics, she has left a legacy of fighting for progress that is nearly unmatched.

"It was my pleasure to meet Sarah, work with her, and present her with the Gov. Mark White Courage in Service Award from the [Wilco Democrats] was party chair. May she rest in power. And may we honor her by continuing to fight for a Texas as good as its promise."

Attorney Stephen Daniel, a former Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress, also shared snapshots of him posing alongside Weddington.

"When I attended @UTAustin, I worked for Sarah Weddington," he wrote in an accompanying caption. "She was a champion of women's rights and a wonderful person. I loved listening to her stories. I have known and kept in touch with Sarah for many years now and I am happy I had the chance to know her."

Steve Vladeck, who serves as the Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law, pointed out just how young Weddington was at the time that she took her fight for abortion rights to the Supreme Court.

"Sarah Weddington was 26(!) when she first argued Roe before #SCOTUS in December 1971, just over three years after graduating from @UTexasLaw," he tweeted. "A remarkable woman, a remarkable career, and a remarkable life. May her memory be a blessing."

Civil rights attorney Colin Allred touched on the recently upheld Texas abortion law, which prohibits pregnancy terminations after six weeks of pregnancy and offers incentives to report to authorities those who undergo the procedure.

Allred wrote: "Texas was home to Sarah Weddington who argued Roe, which no longer exists here. A Texan, [President Lyndon B. Johnson], enshrined voting rights but we're now the hardest state in the country to vote. Our history provides hope for our future. We must keep fighting for a better Texas."

Austin City Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes posted a black and white photo of Weddington as she wrote: "Rest In Peace to Texas trailblazer, Sarah Weddington. Your legacy of fighting for women's reproductive rights and championing women in politics is felt by all. Thx for paving the way."

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the abortion rights organization Planned Parenthood Action Fund, lauded Weddington for her "tremendous legacy" as she shared her own tribute on Twitter.

"What a loss," she wrote. "What a tremendous legacy. Planned Parenthood will continue to honor Sarah Weddington's work every day—by keeping up the fight to ensure that EVERYONE has access to abortion."

In a 2017 interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Weddington discussed being remembered for Roe v. Wade.

"I think most women of my generation can recall our feelings about the fight," she said. "It's like young love. You may not feel exactly the same, but you remember it."

Sarah Weddington dies aged 76
Attorney Sarah Weddington speaks during a women's rights rally on June 4, 2013, in Albany, New York. Weddington, who at 26 successfully argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, died Sunday, December 26, 2021. She was 76. Mike Groll/AP Photo, File