LRB on Roe

Deborah Friedell in London Review of Books has a wild review of The Family Roe: An American Story by Joshua Prager. Jane Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey:

She blames her religious parents (Pentecostals turned Jehovah’s Witnesses) for neglecting to tell her how babies were made. When she became pregnant at seventeen, she was ‘shocked’ – ‘somehow what Woody and I had been doing together didn’t seem to be what was needed to create a whole new life.’

An important player in how the case evolved was Judge Sarah Hughes, who swore in LBJ on Air Force One, November 22, 1963.

Coffee would probably have continued to work on the case by herself if she hadn’t received a phone call from her old law school classmate Sarah Weddington. They weren’t friends, but Weddington had a question about federal procedure, and knew that Coffee had clerked for a federal judge – Sarah Hughes, who was instrumental in securing Texan women the right to serve on juries, though she’ll always be most famous for swearing in Lyndon Johnson as president on Air Force One after Kennedy’s assassination. … Coffee … said it would be smarter to file in Dallas, not Austin, so there would be a chance of arguing in front of Judge Hughes.

Judge Hughes in the spotted dress. She had an incredible life’s journey:

She attended classes at night and during the day worked as a police officer. As a police officer, Hughes did not carry a gun or wear a police uniform because she worked to prevent crimes among women and girls, patrolling areas where female runaways and prostitutes were normally found. Her job was an expression of the progressive idea of rehabilitation instead of punishment. Hughes later credited this job with instilling in her a sense of commitment and responsibility to women and children. At that time she lived in a tent home near the Potomac River and commuted to the campus by canoe each evening.

The lawyer representing Texas in the case opened his Supreme Court oral argument with a “joke”:

The lawyer representing Texas began his argument by saying: ‘It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they’re going to have the last word.’ When no one laughed, Weddington thought he became ‘unnerved’.

I had to look this up to confirm. But there it is!

At the end of everything, this is how Norma McCorvey came to feel:

Maybe America will resolve this issue with voting, as was done in Ireland.

Often when LRB writes about USA stuff, it’s great, just a new perspective. David Runciman’s piece on Colin Kaepernick was really good, addressed to readers who have to have American football explained to them, and in so doing brings beginner’s mind to one of those controversies that’s become locked-in.

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