Stands to reason a disgusting...barbaric...profane law came about because of a disgusting...profane person such as she was...and she lied and said she was raped and became pregnant. Wonder how many are doing that still today? Abortion....wholesale slaughter that's a money maker!
Norma McCorvey had little more to her name than a pseudonym. But it was the most famous pseudonym in American legal history: Jane Roe. And long after the Supreme Court, in 1973, granted it (and all American women) the right to an abortion “free of interference by the State,” McCorvey lived off her pseudonymous self, first as a pro-choice advocate and then—after an evangelical minister named Flip baptized her in a Texas swimming pool—as a professional pro-lifer.
McCorvey, who died in February at age 69, wrote of her divided life in two autobiographies. But if they ended, like so much Scripture, in redemption, they were largely fiction, filled with sufferings she simply had not endured. (She alleged, for example, that her mother kidnapped her daughter, when in fact she had taken custody of her at McCorvey’s urging.) It was as though the great trauma McCorvey did inarguably suffer was not enough, namely that owing to the law, she had been forced to give birth to a child she did not want.
McCorvey had been taught to deprecate abortion even before she knew what it was. Her parents, Olin and Mary Nelson, had pledged themselves to Jehovah when she was a girl, and McCorvey and her brother had knocked on doors in east Texas with religious literature, hocking “thou shalt nots”—abortion among them.
McCorvey would soon dismiss Jehovah, deciding at age 14 in a state correctional school (where she was sent after running away from home) that God did not exist. She had another realization there too: Sex was not profane. For the sex she enjoyed with a run of girlfriends while in state custody was nothing like the sex she had glimpsed at home—most often between a drunk Mary and someone other than Olin. McCorvey vowed to do things differently.
But a failed marriage at 16 left her with a child she did not want. An alcohol-fueled affair at 19 begat a second child. And although she spent most of her nights in the numb comfort of lesbian bars, McCorvey found herself, at 22, single and pregnant for a third time. She did not want the child. And after her adoption lawyer mentioned that he happened to know Linda Coffee, a lawyer readying to challenge the Texas laws on abortion, Norma McCorvey became Jane Roe—not because she wished to see abortion legalized but because she wished to have one. As she later told the New York Times, “I just wanted the privilege of a clean clinic to get the procedure done.”
Abortion was not yet the political football it would become in this country; the Supreme Court affirmed Roe v. Wade by a 7-2 majority. When, two years later, President Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court, Roe was not even mentioned during his confirmation hearings. The Roe ruling, however, soon galvanized those opposed to it. They turned to politics, campaigning for “human life amendments” to kill Roe at its legal root. When legislative efforts failed, they turned to the judiciary, seeking the appointment of like-minded judges. Opposition to abortion turned political, then partisan; the National Right to Life Committee declared the GOP the “party of life.” Politicians conformed—Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan turned pro-life, Ted Kennedy and Al Gore pro-choice. Religion fell in line, too. Whereas in 1976, the Southern Baptist Convention supported most abortions, it opposed most abortions in 1980. Abortion was fast becoming this country’s surest test of political affiliation. And so as to galvanize those who supported it, the pro-choice turned to McCorvey.
At the time, McCorvey was game; she and her partner, Connie Gonzalez, were tired of cleaning homes. And as the years passed, McCorvey helped create one and then another Jane Roe foundation, watched Holly Hunter portray her on TV, wrote her first autobiography (high on cocaine, Valium and pot, she told me) and gave hundreds of speeches—talks all the better for the speaking lessons lawyer Gloria Allred arranged for her. An unwanted pregnancy had become a career.
But it was Jane Roe whom the pro-choice wished to hear from, not McCorvey. And when, in 1995, she accepted Jesus and disavowed Roe (and her homosexuality, too), McCorvey’s life of advocacy began again—just on the other side—with two more foundations, another book and hundreds more speeches about sex and religion, those same two forces that had formed not only Jane Roe but Norma McCorvey, too. “It just hit me like a big squish,” she said of her newfound faith. “It was incredible. I felt all warm inside.”
The pro-choice lament McCorvey’s defection. But looking back over the long arc of her plaintiff-ship, it is clear that McCorvey befit Roe, the whole of it, as no Gloria Steinem could: Like the nation at large, she pledged allegiance to both its survival and its destruction.