Roe v. Wade Was Argued Forty Years Ago Today

Posted: Dec 13, 2011 10:31 PM


When Americans think of Roe v. Wade, the date January 22, 1973 usually comes to mind-the date that the Supreme Court handed down the decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states. Another date bears mentioning though-on December 13, 1971, oral arguments began for the case. That's 40 years ago today:

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court oral arguments in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Doe v. Bolton , 410 U.S. 179 (1973).  (Actually the first round of arguments, though they didn’t know that at the time.  The re-arguments in Roe and Doe were made on October 11, 1972.)

Roe was argued at 10am on Monday, December 13, 1971.  Sarah Weddington, at 26,  represented the Texas plaintiffs; Jay Floyd, an Assistant Attorney General, represented the State of Texas.   That argument was immediately followed by the argument in Doe. Margie Pitts Hames represented the Georgia plaintiffs.  Dorothy Beasley, an Assistant Attorney General, represented the State of Georgia.

A little-known story about the Roe and Doe arguments is that Dorothy Beasley is widely reputed to have been the best oralist.  And the transcripts and audios bear that out.  Whereas Texas was represented by two different attorneys in the argument and re-argument—Jay Floyd and Robert Flowers—Beasley argued both the argument and reargument for Georgia.  She was an experienced Supreme Court advocate, and was quick and articulate and spirited.