Blackmun’s Daughter’s Teen Pregnancy and Failed Shotgun Marriage May Have Influenced Roe v. Wade Ruling

WASHINGTON — The late Harry Blackmun was the Supreme Court Justice who supported and authored the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which sanctioned the legalization of murder by striking down the US abortion law. In an interview Sunday, Blackmun's daughter Sally Blackmun, the executor of his private papers, revealed the background behind his ruling. The interview is a result of her decision to release his private documents for public purview this week.

According to his daughter, Justice Blackmun's choice to strike down the abortion law had much to do with input he sought from her. “Roe was a case that Dad struggled with,” Blackmun told the feminist news service, WomensEnews. “It was a case that he asked his daughters' and wife's opinion about.”

In 1966, while a 19-year-old sophomore at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Blackmun discovered she was pregnant. “It was one of those things I was not at all proud of, that I was not at all pleased with myself about. It was a big disappointment to my parents,” she said. “I did what so many young women of my era did. I quit college and married my 20-year-old college boyfriend. It was a decision that I might have made differently had Roe v. Wade been around.”

Sally told WomensEnews that her marriage lasted only six years, and her college education took almost as long. “Even that might not have occurred, if she had carried to term,” she said. In 1972, Justice Blackmun sought his daughter's opinion on the Roe v. Wade decision.

At the time of the decision, Sally Blackmun lived and worked in Washington. Her father gave her advance notice that he was to disclose his ruling, in order for her to be present when it was revealed. “I was very pleased with the decision and the fact that it gave women that right of choice,” she told WomensEnews. “Dad always felt that it was the right thing to do and the necessary thing to do toward the full emancipation of women in this country. So we certainly were in favor of what he did.”

Sally is an attorney for Darden Restaurants Inc., which operates a chain of restaurants nationwide. She is to be named chair of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando in May, an organization for whom she has raised $3 million to construct a new abortion facility. Rita Lowndes, Former Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando chair says of Blackmun's work, “Sally sees it as a way to honor her father's legacy.”

See also:

Daughter of Justice Blackmun Goes Public about Roe

Website Lists 347 Women Killed by Legal Abortions

Also, Roe v. Wade Almost Overturned in 1992

WASHINGTON — The New York Times was given a sneak peek at Justice Harry A. Blackmun's private papers yesterday. The Times reveals that the 1992 Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood of South-Eastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in which Justice Blackmun struck down paternal notification, calling it an “undue burden” on the right to choose, was not a “done deal.” In fact, the Times wrote that “the right to abortion he had articulated for the Supreme Court two decades earlier was headed for bitter failure.”

Then the papers revealed that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whom Blackmun did not regard as an ally, sent a letter which said “I need to see you as soon as you have a few free moments. I want to tell you about some developments in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and at least part of what I say should come as welcome news.” Justice Kennedy revealed in a private interview the next day that three justices had formed a secret alliance in order to preserve the Roe v. Wade-given right to abortion.

The Times revealed that, after the meeting, Blackmun scribbled a note which said “Roe sound.”

The closing quotations taken from his papers, as quoted by the Times, are filled with irony. “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death,” was meant to be a statement of his denunciation of capital punishment, while in the next paragraph he expresses the sentiment that, through Roe v. Wade, he had assisted “the progress of the emancipation of women.”

See also:

Documents Reveal the Evolution of a Supreme Court Justice

Judge Lifts Abortion Injunction, Father Files Emergency Appeal

(This update courtesy of

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