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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Motions filed could change landmark abortion decisionscomment (0)

September 11, 2003


When Sandra Cano, the “Mary Doe” of the U.S. Supreme Court Doe v. Bolton abortion case, became part of legal history in 1973 she was “young, uninformed and in a difficult situation.” Furthermore, she says she didn’t even want an abortion. Nonetheless, the case she was linked to — the companion filing to Roe v. Wade — gutted Roe’s trimester limitations, allowing abortions to be performed for any reason up until the delivery of the baby and opening the door to “partial birth abortion.”

Cano, in attempt to right a wrong, is appealing to the courts to reverse their decision. On Aug. 25, she announced the filing of a Rule 60 motion, based on changes in factual and legal conditions that make the court’s ruling no longer just. Earlier this year, Norma McCorvey, the former “Roe” of Roe v. Wade, filed a similar motion.

“Abortion has hurt millions of women,” Cano said. “I regret my role.” Like McCorvey, she is being represented by Allan E. Parker, chief executive officer of the Texas-based Justice Foundation. McCorvey’s motion to reverse Roe, filed June 17, is on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cano was 22-year-old Sandra Race Bensing in 1970 when she went to legal aid to get a divorce and find an attorney to help her regain custody of two of her children. She was pregnant with her fourth, staying at a Salvation Army shelter and getting no financial help from her husband. According to her recently filed affidavit, she signed what she thought were divorce papers only to find out later that attorney Margie Pitts Hames was using her in the legal case for abortion.

Cano said she followed her attorney’s instructions not to say anything in court and didn’t realize until years after the 1973 ruling, when she demanded access to her legal records, how she had been deceived.

“The records stated that I applied for an abortion, was turned down and, as a result, sued the state of Georgia. According to the records, I had applied for an abortion through a panel of nine doctors and nurses at a state-funded hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital,” Cano said. “That was a false statement I never sought an abortion there or anywhere else.”

Like McCorvey, Cano gave birth and gave her child up for adoption.

“I did not understand that I was involved in a case that sought to legalize abortion,” Cano said in her affidavit. “I was naive. In retrospect, perhaps, I could have discovered what was going on. But I was in a crisis. Many years later, when I saw the unsealed records in my case, I could not believe what the certification filed in my name said.”

Women across the nation who have had abortions are joining Cano’s effort to reverse Doe. More than 1,000 have provided sworn statements for Doe’s Rule 60 motion.     (EP)

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