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Roy Lucas, Roe v. Wade Lawyer, Dies at 61

By Editorial Staff
Published November 7, 2003

Legal Theorist Who Helped Shape “Right to Privacy”

By IAN URBINA

Roy Lucas, a lawyer who helped fashion the “right to privacy” legal argument used in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the United States, died on Monday in Prague. He was 61 and lived in Washington.

The cause was a heart attack, said his sister, Mary E. Lucas. She said her brother was in the Czech Republic doing research.

From 1966 to 1973, Mr. Lucas helped shape the legal battle for abortion rights. He was the first person to articulate fully how the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold decision, which created constitutional privacy protection for married couples’ use of birth control, could be legally expanded into a constitutional protection for a woman’s right to an abortion, historians say.

Mr. Lucas was a third-year law student at New York University when he made that pivotal argument in a research paper for a class on litigation. The paper was published in the June 1968 issue of the North Carolina Law Review and began circulating widely. Soon after, Mr. Lucas established the James Madison Constitutional Law Institute, a public interest legal organization based in Manhattan, to advance abortion rights.

In September 1969, he filed the first abortion rights lawsuit in New York. For the next four years, he was directly involved in almost all abortion rights suits filed across the country.

Roe v. Wade was filed in 1970, and Mr. Lucas had hoped to argue the case before the Supreme Court. But the informal committee of lawyers who were handling the case decided instead to give the assignment to another lawyer on the team, Sarah Weddington of Texas.

Mr. Lucas continued to argue abortion rights cases after Roe, but remained deeply disappointed at having been passed over as lead counsel before the Supreme Court, said David Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University and the author of “Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade” (University of California Press, 1998).

In 1986, Mr. Lucas pulled back from his legal work, which had helped precipitate two divorces, Ms. Lucas, his sister, said. Instead of engaging in nonstop advocacy, she said, he bought a Volkswagen van and began traveling the country to pursue his love of oil painting. Accompanied only by a pet collie, Michelangelo, Mr. Lucas traveled from Maine to Hawaii, painting mostly landscapes and occasionally writing freelance magazine articles on painting techniques. He rarely stayed in one location long. For extra money, he taught law classes at local universities. He also did occasional pro bono legal work.

In 1997, Mr. Lucas was given a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, he lived in San Antonio. By 1998 the cancer was in full remission, and he moved to Washington.

Spurgeon LeRoy Lucas Jr. was born on Nov. 27, 1941, in Columbia, S.C. His father worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and his mother was a housewife. He majored in chemical engineering while earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina.


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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

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All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

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Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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6. What about the separation of Church and State?
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8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

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Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

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