‘Jane Roe’ of Roe v. Wade Dies at 69–But Here’s the Surprising Change of Heart You Didn’t Know About
Norma McCorvey, widely known as ‘Jane Roe’ of the Roe v. Wade case, died on Saturday at just 69 years old. McCorvey’s lawsuit to legally undergo an abortion in the state of Texas became a monumental case in United States history, setting a precedent for women’s reproductive rights in 1973.
In 1969, McCorvey was a homeless, divorced drug addict who sought to abort her third pregnancy. Her mother raised her first child, and the second had been given up for adoption.
Coffee and Weddington fought for McCorvey’s right to legal abortion in the early stages of her pregnancy– which she claimed was a result of rape– in Dallas, Texas, and eventually the United States Supreme Court.
The court’s decision came on January 22, 1973, and ruled in favor of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy under the constitutional right to privacy.
But McCorvey, an initial champion of the pro-choice movement, later jumped sides to become a pro-life proponent when an Operation Rescue opened next door to the abortion clinic she worked in. She also became a born-again Christian.
Additionally, in 1987, McCorvey retracted her claim that her pregnancy was the outcome of being raped, telling the Washington Post at the time:
“I found out I was pregnant through what I thought was love.”
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling was in no way based on conception, so the lie did not affect the decision. McCorvey’s identity, on the other hand, would be skewed for the rest of her life as a relatively public figure.
For the woman who ended up becoming a pillar in female reproductive rights via abortion rights, McCorvey never actually had one abortion in her life. Her pregnancy that initiated the lawsuit in the first place was carried to term. In fact, her child was already two-and-a-half years old and adopted by another family when the Supreme Court made its decision.
According to the Washington Post, McCorvey only learned about the court’s decision by reading it in a newspaper.
In 1994, she told the New York Times she felt exploited by her attorneys Coffee and Weddington:
“[Weddington] saw these cuts on my wrists, my swollen eyes from crying– the miserable person sitting across from her, and she knew she had a patsy. She knew I wouldn’t go outside of the realm of her and [Coffee]. I was too scared. It was one of the most hideous times of my life … She needed me to be pregnant for her case.”
It’s also been reported that McCorvey didn’t know what an abortion was. Her lawyers allegedly informed her that an abortion had to do with “a piece of tissue,” and that it was like menstruating, not terminating a fetus.
And in February 2005, McCorvey fought for the Supreme Court to rescind its 1973 ruling based off evidence claiming abortions proved harmful to women in McCorvey v. Hill. She also argued that she had the right to petition because she was one of the original parties in the court’s decision. However, the court denied her request for appeal.
So as pro-choice supporters rely on Roe v. Wade as a pillar in their cause, it proves vastly unmentioned that ‘Roe’ herself dedicated her later years to try and reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling.