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Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun has long been seen as the primary architect of the landmark 1973 abortion decision in Roe v. Wade — with particular encouragement coming from his two most liberal colleagues, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. But a close reading of the papers of the late Justice Lewis Powell, Jr. — only recently made available to anyone other than his official biographer — provides a striking revelation about the profound influence that the centrist Southern justice had on the historic case. The Powell Papers make clear that clerk Larry Hammond, drawing from a contemporaneous lower federal court abortion opinion written by Judge Jon O. Newman, helped provide Powell with the analytical insight that persuaded a seven-justice majority to broaden Roe’s new protection of abortion rights from the first trimester all the way to the threshold of fetal viability.

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