Forty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion through two landmark decisions, but the “plaintiff” in one of the cases told WND she’s pro-life, never agreed to be involved in the case and was the victim of “lies, fraud and deceit” to promote a political agenda.
A Texas case known as Roe v. Wade became the more famous of the rulings, but equally important was a Georgia case known as Doe v. Bolton.
The woman known as “Mary Doe” in the latter case was later identified as Sandra Cano. She said a crisis in her marriage ultimately led to her becoming a legal and political pawn.
Cano said despite having a horrible husband with a criminal record, she tried to endure the relationship because she firmly believed marriage vows were for a lifetime. The couple had three children, but a variety of problems led to the older kids being placed in foster care and the third given up for adoption.
As the marriage deteriorated further, Cano discovered she was pregnant again. Around the same time she decided her marriage could not be saved.
“I had had enough of him,” she said. “He was in and out of jail at different periods in the marriage. He didn’t provide, didn’t take care of me. And when you’re not very knowledgeable and you don’t know how to care for yourself very much, I was dependent on others and trusted this one or that one.
“I went to Atlanta Legal Aid. I said I have no money. I said I need an attorney. I said I want my children out of foster care and I want a divorce from my husband,” she said. “Little did I know, going to the legal aide was going to result in me being a plaintiff in abortion, which is something I’ve never been for, I’ve always been against. I never sought an abortion, never sought to be a plaintiff in this case. I was in the dark about it for a long, long time. I think the public knows more about the case than I do. I was never a participant. I was never, in my mind, told, ‘You’re going to be a plaintiff on abortion.’”
Cano divorced her husband, gave birth in November 1970 and gave up that child for adoption as well. She thought the story would end there, but a surprise was waiting two years later.
“In ’73, I was in my mother’s bedroom,” she said. “She and my stepfather were excited, ‘You won. You won,’ and I’m thinking, ‘What have I won?’”
As a pro-life woman who had never sought an abortion, Cano said she was profoundly devastated to know that she had unwittingly played a role in the fight to legalize abortion as a result of her earlier meetings with attorney Margie Pitts Hames.
“I carried the burden for a long, long time of thinking because of me abortion was created,” Cano said. “It was not a pretty picture to live with and the weight on my shoulders was tremendous.”
Cano then decided to learn once and for all what her unintentional role had been in the abortion cases. She filed a request to search through the records pertaining to “Mary Doe.” That took her to the National Archives, where she came across an envelope marked “Identity of Mary Doe.” Cano thought she would find her answers right then and there, but things weren’t that simple.
“I’m thinking, ‘OK. This is what I need.’ So I took the envelope and I was fixing to open it,” she said. “That woman (at the National Archives) came and really quickly stopped me. She said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, you can’t open this.’ I could have went to jail, federal prison for opening something that supposedly was mine.”
The next step was to unseal the records and a federal judge granted her request, a move that did not sit well with Cano’s former attorney and Doe v. Bolton litigator Margie Pitts Hames.
“I’d always thought she was a friend because she seemed like she wanted to help me,” said Cano, who adds Hames showed her true colors on that day. “Margie was very upset. I got a call from her daughter who (asked) why I wanted to destroy her mother’s life. It’s not that I wanted to destroy her mother’s life. There was a wrong done here, a terrible wrong. My name had been used in something, and I was digging and trying to get the result to prove to the world I don’t believe in abortion. It’s wrong.”
As WND has reported, the “Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Norma McCorvey, repudiated her role in the decision and campaigned for its reversal. McCorvey became a pro-life Christian in 1995.
Both McCorvey and Cano are now a vocal defenders of the unborn.
Cano said she needs to speak out for two reasons, to explain the lies, fraud and deceit behind the case connected to her and because of her ardent belief that all life should be defended.
“Abortion is wrong. It’s so terribly wrong,” said Cano, who argues adoption is an excellent option for anyone who feels they cannot care for a child. “How can we play God and how can we take the life of an unborn child because it’s not convenient, we made a mistake or the timing wasn’t right?
“In other words, the baby has to pay the price for the sins of the mother and the father. That’s not right. That baby is entitled to life.”