Roe v. Wade

North Texas Origins of the Original Roe v. Wade Case

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Roe v. Wade is a Dallas case. It all began in North Texas 52 years ago with a district attorney who prosecuted abortion laws and a woman who considered that to be unfair.

It is a federal court case and it was initially argued in Dallas at 400 North Ervay Street on the third floor of what was a federal house at that time.

The 400 North Ervay building is now a 78-unit apartment complex with a restaurant and post office in the lobby. That courtroom is a lounge for apartment residents and sometimes an event venue.

The Jane Roe plaintiff in 1970 was really Norma McCorvey who told NBC 5 23 years later about her motivation at the time for pursuing the case.

"All I wanted was to have an abortion, plain and simple. I found out abortion was illegal. I was appalled. I was hurt," she said.

The defendant was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, who enforced the Texas ban on abortion that was in effect at that time.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time the 1973 ruling came in her favor, the child she intended to abort had been adopted and was 2½ years old.

Over the years McCorvey shed the hidden identity and went public, first speaking out about women’s rights. Windows in her home were shot out.

On one occasion she spoke with Henry Wade.

Along the way, she joined instead with abortion foes. She was baptized by an outspoken abortion opponent. She counseled women on difficult life decisions including abortion. She claimed to be a re-born Christian.

"I've been looking for someone to guide me for a long time. And just decided that I would do something nice for Norma," she told NBC 5 on one occasion with the abortion opponent.

At the Ervay courthouse, her original lawyers were Sara Weddington and Linda Coffee.

Only Coffee is still alive. She spoke with NBC5 in May and said she feared the few states where abortion will still be allowed will cause hardship for women, especially those with low income seeking to end a pregnancy.

“A lot of women don't have enough funds if they were going from here to California or from here to New York,” Coffee said.

Her client, Norma McCorvey, died in 2017. Near the end of her life, McCorvey said she still thought abortion should be available in some cases, despite her earlier alliance with anti-abortion activists.

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