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Roy Lucas, 61; Helped Shape Argument for Abortion Rights

From Staff and Wire Reports

Roy Lucas, 61, a lawyer who was instrumental in shaping the “right to privacy” legal argument that was used in the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in the United States, died of a heart attack Monday in Prague. A resident of Washington, D.C., he was doing research in the Czech Republic.

Historians say Lucas was the first person to thoroughly articulate how the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold decision, which established constitutional privacy protection for the use of birth control by married couples, could be legally extended into a constitutional protection for a woman’s right to an abortion.

The Columbia, S.C., native made his argument in a research paper for a class on litigation while he was a third-year law student at New York University. The North Carolina Law Review published the paper in 1968.

Lucas then founded the Manhattan-based James Madison Constitutional Law Institute, a public-interest legal organization to advance abortion rights.

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He filed the first abortion-rights lawsuit in New York in 1969, and participated in most of the abortion-rights lawsuits filed around the country over the next four years.


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