Roe at 39: Where Women Stand

Sarah Weddington was a 27-year-old, inexperienced lawyer when she argued Roe v. Wade, one of the most important cases of the 20th century before the Supreme Court, 39 years ago. She ended up having to argue it twice, because the first time the court had two vacancies, and the justices wanted to rehear the case after President Nixon filled them. Weddington won both times.

I interviewed her this month in advance of the 39th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on January 22. She recalled what it was like to argue one of the landmark Supreme Court cases of the 20th century as a young lawyer. At the time, few women appeared before the Court, which was all-male. Weddington talked about the political landscape then, when abortion was outlawed and many women died from illegal procedures. She also discussed the current court and what may happen to women’s rights in future decisions.

I also talked to Terry O’Neill, president of NOW, about where women have gained and lost ground over the last three decades. Terry reviewed the setbacks we’ve faced on birth control access and the progress we’ve made in other areas during the Obama administration. Last but not least, she gauged how the political winds are blowing for 2012, and what women, men and families should be most concerned about–including the economy, child care, equal pay and wage erosion, birth control and reproductive rights.

You can listen to the hourlong interview with both women–from my new public-radio show Equal Timehere.

To keep up with the show, you can follow me on Twitter: @MarthaBurk. And you can pick up Ms. to read my columns on money and women’s lives.

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Martha Burk is money editor at Ms.