The Burger Court (1969–86)

Court Decisions

Who were “Roe” and “Wade” in Roe v. Wade?

“Jane Roe” was Norma Jane McCorvey, an unmarried carnival worker in Dallas, Texas, who believed that she could not afford to raise another child. She was only twenty-one years old when she filed her lawsuit. She was pregnant for the third time. She later wrote a book entitled I Am Roe: My Life, Roe v. Wade, and Freedom of Choice in which she described her role in the lawsuit. Ironically, in the late 1990s, Roe switched sides and became a vocal critic of abortion. She started a pro-life ministry called Roe No More, located in Dallas.

Henry Wade was the district attorney for Dallas County, Texas. Roe named him as the lead defendant because he was the public official responsible for enforcing the abortion statute. Wade held the district attorney job for more than thirty-five years. He had achieved acclaim in 1963 and 1964 for successfully prosecuting Jack Ruby, the man convicted of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Wade died in 2001 at the age of eighty-six.

Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. Cynthia Johnson/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

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