The Sandra Cano Story

Sandra Cano

Left to Right: Fr. Frank Pavone, Sandra Cano, Norma McCorvey and Fr. Michael Scanlan at the Tomb of the Unborn.

Sandra Cano was the "Mary Doe" of the 1973 Supreme Court case Doe v. Bolton--the companion case to Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. What is not well-known is that Sandra never had, wanted or believed in abortion.
Sandra Cano was pro-life and stated her opposition to abortion from the beginning. The paperwork she thought was related to a divorce she sought from an abusive husband and the liberation of her children from foster care turned into one of the most (in)famous cases in our nation's history. The American Civil Liberties Union attorney that Cano believed was helping to reunite her with her children and to obtain a divorce CLAIMED that her client applied for an abortion but was turned down. Cano said she was lied to and that the lawyers handling the case did not explain to her what was happening and why. Read how it happened in the article below - "Don't Blame Doe."

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Ephesians 5:11

Rest in Peace, Pro-Life Warrior (September 30, 2014)

Sandra's ministry: Wonderfully Made Ministry

Roe's Companion by Fr. Frank Pavone

Fr. Frank Pavone's Interview with Sandra Cano

Article on Sandra by our Rome staff

An interview with Sandra and Norma McCorvey

Don't Blame Doe

By Bryan Lash

It was 1965. Sandra Race, the seventeen-year-old daughter of an Atlanta City sanitation worker, was growing up in a poor neighborhood when her life was about to be changed forever. She had already dropped out of school; poor grades, the taunts of classmates about her weight and the disfiguring smile from Bell's Palsy were too much for her to face each day. Her mother tried forcing her and once nearly broke a broomstick across her back in the process. Like most adolescents, Sandra dreamed of romantic encounters with some "knight in shining armor" who would provide her with affection and attention. Adolescent insecurity and vulnerability would soon blind her senses and dull her better judgment. In her fragile emotional state, Sandra was a willing pawn for anyone who showed her the slightest favor.

Around this time, Sandra met Joel Lee Bensing, a gas station attendant and occasional day laborer from Hugo, Oklahoma. Sandra was smitten by the smile of this 22-year-old man. Her emotions soared. Having known him for only 2 days yet reeling from Joel's attention and affection, Sandra readily accepted an invitation to Stone Mountain Park, a popular recreational area 25 miles away. Somewhere along the way, he convinced her that a trip to visit his family was in order. Thirteen hours later they pulled into Hugo, Oklahoma. When she called her panic-stricken parents, her father threatened to have Joel arrested for kidnapping. Upon their return to Atlanta, her father beat her with a belt. The couple was then driven to Alabama where Joel was forced to marry Sandra in a civil ceremony.

Desparation and Distress: A Deteriorating Domestic Life

A week after they were married, Sandra found out that her husband was serving probation for molesting two different 5-year-old children. Over the next several years Joel was charged again with molestation and kidnapping. He would appear only a few days out of the month and was in and out of jail their entire marriage. Sandra's other relationships were also tenuous. Sandra's father died, her mother remarried only weeks after his death, and Sandra's stepfather proved to be a very demanding and many times an abusive man. He resented the presence of another man's six children and was not inhibited in releasing his frustration with verbal tirades and physical assaults.

Joel never properly provided for either Sandra or their four children. Things were so tight that on many occasions Sandra's family could not house her. Sandra's younger sister Barbara recalls:

"There were times when Sandra and her children would have to sleep at the Salvation Army Center at night. In the morning she would have to leave there and sit all day outside until the Center reopened in the evening."

It was during this time that her mother's frustration was cause for her to take out a series of "lunacy warrants" on Sandra. She did her best to provide for her children but there were too many factors working against her. Sandra was taken to the state mental hospital at Milledgeville and her children placed in foster care. Undaunted, she was soon released. Sandra readily admits that at this time in her life she was emotionally unstable, but she loved her children and was trying to provide for them in very difficult times. She wasn't into drugs, alcohol or prostitution. She wasn't living a wild lifestyle. She was by her own admission just "poor, uneducated, naive and ignorant."

Seeking Legal Assistance

In March 1970, at her wits end, barely 22 years of age, married to a convicted child molester, her children in foster care and pregnant with her fourth child; Sandra Race Bensing went to Atlanta Legal aid for help. Poverty-stricken, this was her only avenue for legal assistance. She was seeking a divorce from Joel and legal help in getting her children returned to her from foster care. The friendly faces and willing ears were a welcome "oasis" to Sandra, who had seen little of either her entire adult life. Her new "friends" there soon introduced her to an attorney named Margie Pitts Hames who was eager to help with her "situation." Sandra saw Margie as the "life preserver thrown to a drowning man." The only problem was that Ms. Hames' unstated solution to Sandra's predicament was not what Sandra had in mind. Margie's plan was abortion first, and then divorce and freeing the children from foster care. Sandra was kept in the dark and told only that her case had something to do with "Women's Rights." When asked once about the subject of abortion she responded "she did not believe in it, for herself, but could not speak for anyone else."

So began the murky legal journey through which Ms. Hames dragged her virtually blindfolded client. Court documents presented by Hames show that Sandra applied for an abortion at Grady Memorial Hospital, the only place where the poor could obtain an abortion. Hames ignored the fact that Sandra had already stated her opposition to abortion; in fact, extensive searches done at both Sandra's request and that of Georgia State Senator Pam Glanton has turned up no evidence of such an application. Next Ms. Hames, in partnership with Sandra's mother, arranged an abortion for Sandra at Georgia Baptist Hospital; Sandra had no knowledge of this plan. When Sandra finally found out about it, she fled to Oklahoma alone. She had never traveled alone before. Sandra had avoided the abortion others had arranged for her. Hames filed a class action suit in U. S. District Court naming Sandra Race Bensing as Mary Doe: the only pregnant woman in the action. Allegedly, the pregnant Bensing was denied an abortion at Grady Memorial Hospital by the abortion review panel; her case was then taken, reviewed and approved by another review panel at Georgia Baptist Hospital. The case was presented to liberalize the Georgia abortion law so a woman could abort her baby at any point through the ninth month of pregnancy without the interference of a panel of doctors as the statute directed.

Client Misrepresentation: A pawn in the hands of a feminist ideologue

No evidence has ever been found to verify the claim Sandra was either seen or rejected by Grady Hospital. Hames named Sandra as the plaintiff, even though Sandra Bensing did not ever want or seek an abortion. She only wanted a divorce from a convicted child molester and help in getting her children back. Grady Hospital officials neither saw nor rejected her alleged abortion request. So Sandra was presented as a pregnant woman seeking an abortion, to which she was adamantly opposed, whose non-existent request for an abortion was therefore never heard or discussed by hospital officials. While she was on a turbulent emotional roller coaster, her emotional state was not cause for her to seek an abortion as alleged by Hames. Her actions demonstrate the opposite: when she found out an abortion had been scheduled for her at Georgia Baptist Hospital, she fled and only agreed to return if she did not have to have an abortion. Sandra was never asked to testify before any court official and convey her supposed ardent desire to have an abortion. Sandra was a pawn in the hands of a feminist ideologue. Her attorney, Margie Pitts Hames was after abortion on demand and believed she was doing something great for women's rights, all the while ignoring the rights and wishes of her client.

The Supreme Court Decision: Fashioning law without the facts

When her suit failed to achieve her goals in Georgia, Hames continued to press her agenda on to the U. S. Supreme Court. On December 13, 1971 at 11:12 AM, Doe v. Bolton went before the Supreme Court. Hames represented her side and Dorothy T. Beasley represented the State of Georgia. Mrs. Beasley was skeptical. There were just too little facts. The transcripts document her amazement:

"The Attorney General (Arthur K. Bolton-Georgia) has no idea what the abortion committee in this particular case did or how much it knew. And that again is one of the great problems with this case. We know of no facts, there are no facts, in this case, no established facts...there is no case or controversy. Not with these defendants...It is not a complete divulgence of the facts surrounding her (Sandra's) circumstances."
On a couple of occasions the justices wanted to know if Mary Doe (Sandra Race Bensing) really existed, to which Hames replies in the affirmative. What she never points out is that while there was a real woman who was pregnant named in the original suit, Mary Doe never wanted or sought an abortion. Hames presented an affidavit from her mystery woman, Mary Doe, which contained the signature of Sandra Race Bensing. The document states that she is pregnant with her fourth child and that she cannot possibly care for the child properly, she is not emotionally capable of bringing the baby into the world, and that she wants an abortion. Sandra does not recall reading or signing this paper. The signature is similar to her own but the contents of it are in direct conflict with Sandra's beliefs and actions. Her only explanation is either the signature is a forgery or that she signed the document in a legal setting with Hames at which time she signed a number of documents relating to her divorce and the regaining of her children. Sandra trusted her attorney to be representing her best interests; however, the motive in this case was ideology over facts.

The judicial system of the United States was established to insure the rights and freedoms of citizens who are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The outcome of this U. S. Supreme Court decision was determined without a complete inspection of the facts. Clearly, Mary Doe was not Sandra Race Bensing. She was just who Margie Pitts Hames portrayed her to be. Statements Hames made before the Justices of the Supreme Court were lies and her motives were clear deception.

The high court's justices were not insistent in their questions. Members of that court who sided with Hames trampled the U. S. Constitution under foot. Abortion was legalized by a handful of men who were not in command of all the facts. This is precisely why the framers of the Constitution formed the legislative branch of government. Justices of the Supreme Court are supposed to rule on the constitutionality of the laws of the land, not author them.

In his dissenting opinion Justice Byron R. White said

"Nothing in the language or history of the Constitution supported the court's judgment, and the court had simply fashioned and announced a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, had invested the right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes, whereas the issue of abortion should actually have been left with the people and the political process they have devised to govern their own affairs."
Don't blame Doe.


U. S. Supreme Court, Mary Doe v. Arthur K. Bolton (Number 70-40)
Fulton Daily Report Volume 100, Number 28. Thursday, February 9, 1989
Video- ""The High Court's Low Blow to Doe" Copyright 1997 Sentinel Productions
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