She’s the key name in the story of legalized abortion.
But she doesn’t fit the narrative and that’s why you don’t know her.
Or maybe she does fit.
Or maybe it doesn’t matter.
Jane Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey and she passed away Feb. 18, 2017. McCorvey’s multi-faceted tale is circulating once again in anticipation of a documentary being released May 22, 2020. In the film, she makes a “stunning confession” that pro-life organizations paid her off to claim conversion to Christianity and inherently the pro-life movement as well. Seems to me that no one really knows what Norma believed.
So let’s a) look at the timeline of Norma’s life and b) some questions to help us figure out if her prior allegiances should even matter to us.
Sep. 22, 1947 – Norma Lea Nelson is born in Simmesport, Lousianna to a single, abusive and alcoholic mother, Mary. Growing up in Texas, she was a known trouble maker in Catholic boarding school and was once sent to a reform school. Later, in her 90s, Mary admitted to beating Norma because she was a wild child and slept with women.
Age 15: McCorvey worked as a roller-skating carhop and was picked up by a customer who ordered a “furburger”. This 21-year-old sheet metal worker was Elwood McCorvey. In the next year, Norma and “Woody” married and conceived a child. In McCorvey’s book I Am Roe, she wrote that her first husband was violent and they divorced before their daughter, Melissa, was born. Sometime around this period, she also dropped out of school.
1965: Melissa landed in the legal custody of Norma’s mother, Mary. See event No. 1 for a reminder of the home life she would grow up in.
Around 1966/67: McCorvey works at a gay bar, picking up women but still has relationships with men, evidenced by the birth of her second child, who was adopted in private.
Sept. 1969: McCorvey was 22 and pregnant again. She did not want to carry the child to term. She began seeking an abortion. She could not obtain an illegal abortion (often too expensive for most women). At this point in Texas history, abortion was illegal except in the case of potential maternal mortality. McCorvey found her way to Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington. These feminist lawyers were looking for a client to use in challenging abortion-restricting laws. Weddington had previously traveled to Mexico to obtain an abortion herself.
March 3, 1970: McCorvey was six months pregnant when Coffee and Weddington filed a lawsuit on McCorvey’s behalf (and all other women “who were or might become pregnant and want to consider all options”) against the district attorney of Dallas County, Henry Wade. The lawyers amended Roe v. Wade to be a class-action suit, securing its future application for all Texas women.
June 17, 1970: Texas district court rules the state’s abortion ban was illegal, citing a violation of the constitutional right to privacy. The state appealed, landing the case in U.S. Supreme Court. In McCorvey’s first book, she said in the days after the appeal, she “got drunk, and pounded my fists into my [pregnant] belly in frustration.”
If you passed third grade math, you’ll see that McCorvey’s account of this probably isn’t true, since she had already given birth and the child was once again adopted – all before the first ruling in Texas. Norma McCorvey never had an abortion procedure.
Sometime in 1970 – Age 25, McCorvey meets Connie Gonzalez, 41, and they begin a romantic relationship. In a 2013 Vanity Fair article, Gonzalez recalls the advice she gave her new partner – to stop getting pregnant so she “could have a better life.”
Jan. 22, 1973 – In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas abortion ban. This legalized the procedure for the nation. The court decision came with a declaration that a woman’s right to an abortion was congruent with the right to privacy (14th amendment). Further, the court of justices divided pregnancy into three trimesters. In the first, an abortion was solely a woman’s right. Second trimester, the government could regulate but not ban with the intention being protection of the mother. In the third, a state could ban abortion to protect a ‘fetus’ that could survive on its own outside the womb, with an exception for the woman’ health being in the balance.
A few days later: McCorvey admits to being Jane Roe in the Baptist Press, a Nashville based news service, with ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. She said, “It’s great to know that other women will not have to go through what I did.”
Early 1980s – McCorvey volunteers at the Aaron Women’s Health Center in Dallas. She also opened up to the press on an annual basis. At one point, she told reporters that her third pregnancy was the result of rape. In 1987, she admits in a television interview that the rape claim was false. In I Am Roe, she refers to the father as a consensual partner she calls “Carl”.
1988 – Norma teams up with a lawyer, an advertising executive and a Texas businesswoman to print up to 1,000 copies of the first page of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision. In the aforementioned Vanity Fair article, Gus Clemens, advertising executive, said, “I think it’s accurate to say that [we] were manipulating Norma and that Norma was manipulating us.” This brain child went nowhere. Some of the group’s members, however, formed the Jane Roe Foundation to help impoverished Texas women get abortions.
April 5, 1989 – McCorvey claims in the media that she and Gonzalez were shot. Decades later, Gonzalez told the Vanity Fair reporter that the shooting never happened.
Days later – as the Supreme Court readied themselves to hear arguments for a case challenging Missouri abortion restriction laws, McCorvey goes to D.C. to march for abortion rights. She meets Gloria Allred. The feminist lawyer takes McCorvey on as a client and makes introductions to people with deep pockets. Later, Allred and McCorvey attended a supposed Jane Roe Foundation brunch with abortion rights supporters. Allred also made sure McCorvey had public speaking lessons. Allred later admitted in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner that the funds went to McCorvey alone.
Also 1989 – The movie Roe V. Wade is released, starring Holly Hunter, who plays Ellen Russell, based on McCorvey’s life. Released by NBC, McCorvey was paid 60 percent of 5 percent of the film’s gross. According to Vanity Fair, this was $10,613 as of 2003. During this time period, she gave some public pro-abortion speeches and supposedly partied quite a bit with her earnings.
1994 – HarperCollins publishes I Am Roe. The focus in on McCorvey and Allred takes advantage of it, placing her client in the limelight as often as possible.
January 1995 – McCorvey tells, A.P., “The anti-choice people are just turning into terrorists. This issue is the only thing I live for. I live, eat, breathe, think everything about abortion.”
Spring of 1995 – While working at a Dallas women’s clinic, McCorvey meets Flip Benham, leader of Operation Rescue, a Christian group working to ban abortion. The group moved nextdoor to “A Choice for Women”. Benham said to Vanity Fair that McCorvey instantly came to the group to ask for prayer and talked with Benham often about life and the Bible.
July 1995 – McCorvey claims her conversion to the Christian faith. Benham baptized her in the backyard pool of a congregant.
Following conversion – McCorvey leaves the clinic, her old foundation and her pro-choice activities. She creates a new nonprofit, Roe No More Ministry, the goal of which was as its name implies. Years later, it was discovered she was receiving a $40,000 salary from Roe No More.
1997 – Thomas Nelson, Christian publisher, bought the rights to tell McCorvey’s story once again in Won by Love. This book details her abandonment of the pro-abortion camp and homosexuality. She claims to have continued to living with Gonzalez, platonically.
1998 – McCorvey converted to Roman Catholicism. Continues to speak out against abortion at both paid and non-paid events.
July 2004 – Gonzalez suffered a stroke.
2005 – Gonzalez applied for food stamps.
2006 – McCorvey publicly asks for financial help because she and Gonzalez were hungry. Soon after, she leaves Gonzalez to move to Smithville, Texas. Melissa, McCorvey’s first child, said to Vanity Fair, “Norma has never been able to do the right thing. Never.”
2011 – McCorvey appears in a movie with actress Erin Way, who said in the same article, “She feels at the end of the day a little bit like she doesn’t have a side that she can belong to. She’s a little bit of an orphan.”
November 2012 – McCorvey receives $1,000 to appear in a Florida TV ad saying “Do not vote for Barack Obama. He murders babies.” complete with images of aborted babies in the background.
2013 – Father of the catholic parish McCorvey attended says McCorvey lives on free housing from strangers and some money from the church.
Feb. 18, 2017 – McCorvey dies.
So this is the timeline I compiled using the sources I linked. At the very least, know the above facts before you watch the documentary. But more than that, I would challenge you to make some conclusions based on these facts. Here’s what I can say:
Was she pro-choice? I don’t know.
Was she pro-life? I don’t know.
And don’t pretend you know either.
Here’s what we do know: She had an unbelievably difficult childhood. She made poor choices in the 60s and 70s – the same choices teenagers and twenty-soemthings make today.
She never graduated high school and no one provided her support or there is no evidence of support offered.
We know the abortion movement used her as a pawn. Rumor has it she heard about the Roe v. Wade ruling in the paper, just like everyone else.
She never had an abortion.
It’s safe to say that the pro-life camp used her as a pawn also. For the same reasons as the abortionists did – she was willing and available and there was something in it for her.
Besides being a carhop in her teens and working at women’s clinics, I read nothing about other jobs McCorvey held. We can conclude she was always looking for the next gig or foundation that would cut her a check. Jane Roe was not her alias, but her career, if you want to call it that.
She claimed to have abandoned homosexuality but continued to live with her partner. Until, of course, Gonzalez became too much of a burden and McCorvey left.
She was caught multiple times in her own lies. We all lie. This is nothing new.
Here’s what we can conclude about McCorvey: if either side of the abortion issue wanted to pick a solid, upstanding, persuasive and confident voice for their cause, they were idiots to ever pick McCorvey. The one time they picked the right candidate was when she played Jane Roe, an uninvolved, vulnerable and willing pawn. That should strike us as interesting, seeing as they had countless people to choose from in the exact same circumstances who would have been more involved. They picked someone who didn’t make a fuss when it took too long and she carried the baby to term anyway.
McCorvey left her children. Sought to abort one baby. Didn’t succeed. But played the biggest name in Supreme Court history as she made it legal for millions of women to choose to abort their own babies.
As for what McCorvey’s life, “stunning confession”, etc. mean for the future of abortion policy – I don’t think it matters at all.
Here’s why: I’m a 22-year-old voting woman who stays fairly educated on matters regarding abortion –I had no idea who this woman was. News about her “stunning confession” will come and go amidst the coronavirus pandemic like the whipped coffee fad. And although her life is reminiscent of Joe Exotic himself, we will all remember Tiger King’s storyline better than Norma’s deathbed interview. Her lack of loyalty to any cause proves her unworthy of our serious consideration. It does, however, beg our genuine compassion for others in the positions she found herself in throughout her life.
People in the 70s, 80s and 90s should not have formed their opinions about abortion based on someone as fickle as Norma McCorvey. McCorvey never needed an abortion, a cause, a lawyer, a supreme court case, movies made after her, foundations in her (fake) name, or even a backyard swimming pool baptism.
She needed what you and I need: Love. Truth. The gospel explained in its entirety. A church that loved her, not exploited her. A family that forgave her and welcomed her in with no expectation of what she could give in return.
What should we take from Norma’s life story: a) we are all desperately in need of a Savior. b) abortion has been and will continue to be a war we wage. c) no amount of money or celebrity faces will change the policy. d) you have to change first.
Start with the facts. What is abortion? In case you slept through english, abort means to end. For something to end, it must have begun. Think about that. What exactly does abortion end?
If you come to the conclusion that abortion is ending the existence of an organism that has the potential to breathe, eat, sleep, speak, create, produce, laugh, exude joy, etc. then you should probably ask yourself another question.
When did you become God? When did it become okay to end a life to avoid inconvenience, pain, shame, financial stress, etc.?
And if that’s the basis for your reason to end a life, then what are you planning to do with your parents when they don’t remember your name, require frequent pampers changes, drool uncontrollably and wipe out your bank account with surgeries and other medical expenses? Please, do tell me your plan.
The point is, whatever you choose to believe – don’t be fickle. McCorvey was. Don’t be ignorant. Jane Roe was. Don’t exploit others for the sake of your cause. Both sides did. Speak in truth. Not nearly enough of us do. And if you are fickle, ignorant or exploitative – then be silent. There’s too many voices already to have to filter out more uneducated, pointless screaming. Be quiet. Listen. Then, speak justice and mercy – with humility in every syllable.