Cano Versus Doe
The Real Story of the Woman Behind Doe v. Bolton

 

Sandra Cano was the "Doe" of Doe v. Bolton. "In 1970," she states, "I was a young woman in a very difficult situation."[1] By the age of 22 Sandra had had three children who had been taken from her to be put into foster care, and was pregnant with her fourth. Unbeknownst to her, she was soon to become the focal point of the lawsuit that effectively legalized abortion on demand.

There are serious discrepancies between the official allegations of the Doe plaintiffs and the subsequent account of the actual woman involved. The Doe allegations state:

On March 25, 1970, [Doe] applied to the Abortion Committee of Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, for a therapeutic abortion . . . Her application was denied 16 days later, on April 10, when she was eight weeks pregnant . . . Because her application was denied, she was forced either to relinquish "her right to decide when and how many children she will bear" or to seek an abortion that was illegal under the Georgia statutes.[2]

In reality, as Sandra has since testified in court and before Congress, she never wanted an abortion at all. She went to an Atlanta legal-aid office in an attempt to divorce her husband and get her children back.[3] She claims that her lawyer, Margie Pitts Hames, tricked her into signing the affidavit that formed the basis of the plaintiff's charges in Doe. "I do not believe it is my signature on the affidavit, and Margie either forged my signature or slipped this document in with other papers while I was signing divorce papers. I never told Margie that I wanted an abortion. The facts stated in the affidavit in Doe v. Bolton are not true."[4]

According to her testimony, there is no record at Grady memorial hospital of her alleged application for an abortion. In fact, she says, she was so opposed to the idea of having an abortion that when her mother and Hames tried to make her have one she fled to Oklahoma until they promised that she could keep her child![5] But Hames managed to persuade her to return and appear in court as a plaintiff in the initial hearing of the Doe case:

The way she phrased it to me, it was a woman's liberation right. She said, "If you're working a job, and you're doing the same job as a man, don't you want to make the same salary? I said, "Well, of course." So that's what I thought the issue was about and everything. It's really hard for people to believe something like that. God knows my heart. He knows the truth. I really was that naive and that stupid.[6]

Sandra never again appeared in court as part of Doe. Her own account indicates that she was involved only insofar as her lawyers could use her to make the case they were already predetermined to make. Sandra claims that she never sought an abortion of her own volition at all, and told her lawyer that she did not want one. As she put it bluntly in her testimony before a Congressional hearing in 2005: "Doe v. Bolton is based on a lie and deceit. It needs to be retried or overturned."[7]

In 2003, she went to court herself in an attempt to reverse Doe, arguing that new laws and scientific evidence provide justification for overturning the 1973 decision. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied Ms. Cano's motion to reconsider Doe on procedural grounds. On January 11, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision,[8] and on October 10, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review.[9]

Resources

Congressional Testimony

"The Consequences of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton." Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109th Congress, 1st Session (June 23, 2005)

This Congressional hearing focused on the consequences of the Roe and Doe decisions. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) presided. Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano were among those who testified.

Court Cases

Cano v. Baker, 435 F.3d 1337 (2006).

In 2003, Sandra Cano brought a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, asking the court to reverse the Doe v. Bolton decision that had been ruled in her favor. She argued that Roe should be reconsidered in the light of post-Roe developments in laws and scientific knowledge. The court denied Ms. Cano's motion to reconsider on procedural grounds. On January 11, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision, and on October 10, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further review . Cano v. Baker, 549 U.S. 972 (2006).

Marie v. McGreevey , 314 F.3d 136 (3rd Cir. 2002). (Originally Marie v. Whitman).

In this case a group of women claimed that they had been given abortions without their full consent. They argued that the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, which did not allow them to collect damages for the wrongful death of an unborn child, was in violation of their equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. An amici curiae brief filed with the court on behalf of 11,179 women, including 386 post-abortive women, describes the faulty legal premises of Roe and the resulting harm. See Amici Curiae Brief of 11,719 Women on behalf of Appellants in Support of Reversal of the Trial Courts Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal District Court's dismissal of the case. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review. Marie v. McGreevey, 539 U.S. 910 (2003).

In Marie v. Whitman, Sandra Cano submitted an affidavit before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (March 15, 2000) (Civil Action No. 99-2692 (GEB)). Contending that her interests were not properly represented in Doe, Sandra Cano argued against Doe's holding on a broad concept of health as a reason for abortion. With respect to her own case, she stated: "But, no matter how hard your life is, it is never okay to kill a baby. I have been as far down . . . as someone can go. . . . but never once did it cross my mind to take a baby's life."

Links to Important Documents

1. Affidavit of Sandra Cano (March 15, 2000) before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in the case of Marie v. Whitman (Civil Action No. 99-2692).

2. Testimony of Sandra Cano before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee (June 23, 2005).



Footnotes

[1] Affidavit of Sandra Cano (March 15, 2000), in Marie v. Whitman, 314 F.3d 13 (99-2692).

[2] Doe v. Bolton , 410 U.S. 179, 185 (1973).

[3] Affidavit of Sandra Cano, in Marie v. Whitman; Testimony of Sandra Cano before Congress in 2005. See: "The Consequences ofRoe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton:" Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109 th Congress, 1st Session (June 23, 2005).

[4] Affidavit of Sandra Cano, in Marie v. Whitman.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sandra Cano testimony before Congress in 2005.

[8] Cano v. Baker, 435 F.3d 1337 (2006).

[9] Cano v. Baker , 549 U.S. 972 (2006).

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