Sarah Weddington cemented her place in the women’s movement through her role in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. Weddington filed suit against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade to protest the state’s anti-abortion statute. In January 1973, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Texas law and declared abortion a fundamental right. A year before the ruling, Weddington was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. She resigned in 1977 to become general counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Weddington attended the National Women’s Conference as a member of the Texas delegation, speaking in favor of the resolution on reproductive freedom. In her statement, she stressed the importance of sex education and family planning in preventing unwanted pregnancies. But “there are some who refuse to continue pregnancy,” Weddington said, “and we save our support for their choice.” As a White House appointee, Weddington also participated in the conference’s “Briefings from the Top” program, a series of lectures coordinated by federal employees.
From 1978 to 1981, Weddington served as assistant to President Jimmy Carter, the highest staff title in the White House. Upon her return to Texas, she became the first woman director of the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations. Weddington also taught at Texas Woman’s University and the University of Texas at Austin, remaining at the latter for 28 years.
This segment from 1977 National Women’s Conference: A Question of Choices captures scenes from Sarah Weddington’s appearance at the event. She was first to speak in favor of the resolution on reproductive freedom when it came to the floor on November 20. “We would all agree that the best way to prevent the problem of unwanted pregnancies is contraception,” she remarked in her statement. “We do stress that we are for sex education; we are for the availability of family planning information and services.”