Civil Rights

Q&A with Sarah Weddington

Posted Friday July 2, 2010 5:35am
Sarah Weddington
Interview by Gwen Gibson

Sarah WeddingtonIn your trailblazing career you have been an attorney, state legislator, women’s rights activist, general counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and a sought-after speaker and writer. In addition, you teach at the University of Texas and mentor promising students. But you will always be best known as the attorney who successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court at age 27.

Q. This landmark decision, which legalized abortion, has been controversial since it became law 37 years ago. These days opponents seem to be gaining ground as more and more states pass laws that restrict or regulate abortions. The latest Gallup Poll, meanwhile, shows 47 percent of adult Americans are anti-abortion while 45 percent support a woman’s right to choose this procedure. What do you think of these developments? Is Roe v. Wade in serious trouble?

A. First I’ve written several press reports and newsletter documents indicating that one poll you’re citing was not accurate and was a misrepresentation. More people have always said a woman should have the right to choose. But if you get down to asking, “Should she have to consult somebody?” or “Should she have to do it before a certain period?” then you get some real variety.

Q. You think these polls are too nuanced?

Q&A with ACLU’s Terri Burke

Posted Monday April 19, 2010 2:36pm
Terri Burke
Executive Director of the Texas ACLU

Interview by Gwen Gibson

Terri BurkeQ. You have tackled many controversial issues during your two and a half years as chief executive of the Texas ACLU. Your ongoing efforts to protect the rights of immigrants and to guarantee religious freedom for all seem to stir up the most debates. How do you explain your stand on these contentious issues to your supporters and to your detractors?

A. One of the first things I stress is that we are talking about immigrant rights, we are not talking about immigration reform. The Constitution doesn’t have those words in it. The Constitution talks about people; it doesn’t talk about citizens. The way we treat our immigrants is a reflection of who we are as a people and whether they’re here legally or illegally, whether they’ve broken the law or not, they deserve the due process that everybody in this country gets according to the Constitution. I don’t ask you to believe that immigration policy should be changed. I don’t ask you to believe that 12 million people ought to be thrown out of the country or 12 million people ought to be let in. I just ask you to think about who we are as a people and what are our very most fundamental American values. When we don’t afford these folks the basic constitutional rights they are entitled to, we diminish ourselves as Americans.

Q. How do you respond when people say you are defending criminals when you defend the rights of illegal immigrants?

A. I say it’s no different when you have an American accused of committing a burglary. In this country we believe that every person is entitled to an attorney and a trial and a jury of his or her peers. Am I coddling a criminal when I say that? Maybe you think I am. I think it’s about basic rights. My answer is, “What part of the Constitution is it that you don’t like?”

Q. And what about religious freedom?

No posts to display