Norma Leah McCorvey Nelson, better known by the legal pseudonym “Jane Roe”, was the plaintiff in the landmark American lawsuit Roe v. Wade in 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional. The “Roe” of this case is described as a pregnant woman who “wished to terminate her pregnancy by an abortion” performed by a ‘competent, licensed physician, under safe, clinical conditions’; and that she was unable to get a ‘legal’ abortion in Texas.
Norma McCorvey tells a different story. One much more complicated. She describes herself being ignorant of the facts of her own case, and claims that her attorneys simply used her for their own predetermined ends, to further their own agenda. Norma had become pregnant with her third child and sought to end her pregnancy, but she was not aware of all the repercussions of abortion or even what the term really meant. “Abortion” to her meant ‘going back’ to the condition of not being pregnant. She did not fully realize that this process would end a human life.
She says that her attorney, Sarah Weddington, convinced her, “It’s just a piece of tissue. You just missed your period.” Another problem was that Norma claimed that her pregnancy was the result of a gang-rape, in order to present a more sympathetic picture. As she has since admitted, this was totally untrue. Norma says she was not really involved in the case. She signed the initial affidavit without even reading it, and was never invited into court and never testified. She was simply used as their “Poster Child”. Later, Norma states, “I found out about the decision from the newspaper just like the rest of the country.” Norma never even had an abortion. The legal process was slower than her nine month pregnancy. She ended up giving her baby up for adoption.
For many years, Norma was silent about her role as “Jane Roe.” Then in the 1980’s, in order to justify her own conduct and deal with her many conflicting emotions, she became involved in the abortion movement, making public appearances in support of abortion. Around 1992, she began to work at abortion clinics. As Norma explains, “I had no actual experience with abortion until that point.” She became even more emotionally confused and conflicted between what her conscience knew to be evil, and what the judges, her mind and her need for money were telling her was okay.
In 1995, Norma started working at a clinic in Dallas where a pro-life group moved into the same building. Over time she became friends with many of them and began to have serious doubts about the morality of abortion. She was particularly affected by her friendship with Emily Mackey, the 7 year old daughter of one of the pro-lifers. She began to realize what abortion was doing to children. “Abortion was no longer an ‘abstract right’. It had a face now, in a little girl named, Emily.” Eventually (due in large part to Emily’s urging) she started going to church, and began to reject her past involvement with the pro-abortion movement.
In the words of a friend, Norma “jumped off the poster and into the arms of Christ”. Since her conversion she dedicated herself to pro-life work, and started her own ministry, “Roe No More”, in 1997, and continued to speak out against abortion and for life. In 2003, she went to court in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. Her case was dismissed by the Fifth Circuit appeals court; however, one of the judges of the case wrote a concurrence that was strongly critical of the Roe decision. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review. In 1998 and 2005 she testified before Congress about the injustices of abortion and the deceit underlying Roe v. Wade. On February 18, 2017, Norma McCorvey passed away at the age of 69.