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Sandra Cano, ‘Mary Doe’ of Doe v. Bolton, RIP

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Sandra Cano, the woman whose divorce custody case morphed into a Supreme Court decision extending the “constitutional right” to an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnacy, has passed away of natural causes.

Cano was “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the other case settled by the High Court on January 22, 1973. In 1970, at 22, Cano saw an attorney to divorce her husband – who had a troubled legal history – and regain custody of her children. The Georgia resident was nine weeks pregnant with her fourth child at the time.

Cano said once the attorney from Legal Aid, Margie Pitts Hames, deceptively twisted her desire to stay with her children into a legal crusade that has resulted in 56 million children being aborted.

“I was a trusting person and did not read the papers put in front of me by my lawyer,” Cano said in a sworn affidavit in 2003. “I did not even suspect that the papers related to abortion until one afternoon when my mother and my lawyer told me that my suitcase was packed to go to a hospital, and that they had scheduled an abortion for the next day.”

Cano was so disgusted by the prospect that she fled the state.

Yet the legal case went on, winding up before the Supreme Court the same day as Roe v. Wade. The same 7-2 majority agreed to Roe, which struck down state regulations on abortions before viability, and Doe, which allowed abortions until the moment of birth on the grounds of maternal “health” – a definition so broad that any abortion could be justified.

All the justices except Byron White and future Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed that “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age” are all “factors [that] may relate to [maternal] health.”

“I was nothing but a symbol in Doe v. Bolton with my experience and circumstances discounted and misrepresented,” Cano said in 2003.

Two years later, she told a Senate subcommittee, “Using my name and life, Doe v. Bolton falsely created the health exception that led to abortion on demand and partial birth abortion... I only sought legal assistance to get a divorce from my husband and to get my children from foster care. I was very vulnerable: poor and pregnant with my fourth child, but abortion never crossed my mind.”

On the 30th anniversary of the case, she asked the Supreme Court justices to revisit the ruling that bears her pseudonym, but they denied her request. “I felt responsible for the experiences to which the mothers and babies were being subjected. In a way, I felt that I was involved in the abortions – that I was somehow responsible for the lives of the children and the horrible experiences of their mothers,” she explained.

By that time, both Cano and Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, opposed abortion and implored the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings made in their names. Both also said their pro-abortion attorneys had misrepresented or lied about their circumstances to make abortion-on-demand more sympathetic.

"I pledge that as long as I have breath, I will strive to see abortion ended in America,” Cano said in 1997.

Priests for Life announced last week that Cano was in a hospital in the Atlanta area, in critical condition with throat cancer, blood sepsis, and congestive heart failure.

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“My heart is broken that Sandra will never witness an end to abortion,” Janet Morana said. “She never wanted to have an abortion. She never had an abortion, and she certainly never wanted to be a part of the Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Bolton, that opened the gates for legal abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason.”

“Sandra’s work to overturn that devastating decision that was based on lies will not end with her death,” Fr. Frank Pavone said. “When life ultimately triumphs over death, Sandra will share in that victory.”

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