THE STORY OF NORMA McCORVEY
The Woman Who Became "Jane Roe"

 

Norma McCorvey with Emily - the little girl whose love changed Norma's life

In 1970, Norma McCorvey, under the pseudonym "Jane Roe," filed a law suit challenging the Texas laws that criminalized abortion. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court as the now-famous Roe v. Wade. The "Roe" of that 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'; that she was unable to get a 'legal' abortion in Texas. . . . She claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy. . . ."[1]

The true story, as Norma McCorvey tells it, is more complicated. She describes herself as having been relatively ignorant of the facts of her own case, and claims that her attorneys simply used her for their own predetermined ends. They "were looking for somebody, anybody, to use to further their own agenda. I was their most willing dupe."[2] She had indeed become pregnant with her third child and sought to end her pregnancy, but she was not aware of all the implications of abortion or even what the term itself meant. "'Abortion', to me, meant 'going back' to the condition of not being pregnant."[3] She did not fully realize that this process would end a human life. She says that her attorney Sarah Weddington, rather than correcting her misconceptions, deliberately confused the issue: "For their part, my lawyers lied to me about the nature of abortion. Weddington convinced me, 'It's just a piece of tissue. You just missed your period.'" [4] 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.[5]

Norma states that her actual involvement in the case was minimal. She signed the initial affidavit without even reading it, and "was never invited into court. I never testified. I was never present before any court on any level, and I was never at any hearing on my case . . . I found out about the decision from the newspaper just like the rest of the country."[6]

Norma never had an abortion. She gave her baby up for adoption.[7]

For several years, Norma was silent about her role as "Jane Roe." In the 1980's, "in order to justify my own conduct, with many conflicting emotions,"[8] 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," becoming "even more emotionally confused and conflicted between what my conscience knew to be evil, and what the judges, my mind and my need for money were telling me was OK."[9]

When Norma was working at a clinic in Dallas in 1995, a pro-life group moved into the same building, leading to a series of dramatic encounters between Norma and pro-life activists. At first she was bitterly opposed to their presence, but 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."[10] Eventually (due in large part to Emily's urging)[11] she started going to church, and began to reject her past involvement with the pro-abortion movement.

Since her conversion she has dedicated herself to pro-life work, starting her own ministry, "Roe No More," in 1997, and continuing 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.[12] The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review.[13] In 1998 and 2005 she testified before Congress about the injustices of abortion and the deceit underlying Roe v. Wade.[14]

Resources

Book

McCorvey, Norma (with Gary Thomas). Won by Love. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

This is Norma's autobiography, in which she describes her experience as part of the pro-abortion movement and relates how she converted to Christianity and became "100% pro-life."

Congressional Testimony

"The 25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Has It Stood the Test of Time?" Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 105th Congress, 2nd Session (January 21, 1998)

A Congressional hearing that discusses the Roe decision. Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) presided. Norma McCorvey was among those who testified.

"The Consequences of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton." Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109th Session (June 23, 2005) Congress, 1

This Congressional hearing focused on the consequences of the Roe and Doe decisions. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) presided. Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano ("Doe" of Doe v. Bolton) were among those who testified.

Court Cases

Marie v. McGreevey , 314 F.3d 136 (3rd Cir. 2002) (Originally Marie v. Whitman).

In this case a group of women claimed that they had been given abortions without their full consent. They argued that the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act, which did not allow them to collect damages for the wrongful death of an unborn child, was in violation of their equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. An amici curiae brief filed with the court on behalf of 11,179 women, including 386 post-abortive women, describes the faulty legal premises of Roe and the resulting harm. See Amici Curiae Brief of 11,719 Women on behalf of Appellants in Support of Reversal of the Trial Courts Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal District Court's dismissal of the case. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review. Marie v. McGreevey, 539 U.S. 910 (2003).

McCorvey v. Hill, 385 F.3d 846 (5th Cir. 2004).

This was a suit brought by Norma McCorvey, asking the courts to reverse Roe v. Wade. She presented over a thousand affidavits of women who had suffered in some way from abortion. She argued that Roe should be reconsidered in the light of developments since Roe (e.g., the knowledge that the fetus feels pain at a very early stage of development). Her motion to reopen the case was ultimately denied in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, on the grounds that the case was "moot." The Texas laws criminalizing abortion "have, at least, been repealed by implication," rendering their constitutionality a dead issue. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review. McCorvey v. Hill, 543 U.S. 1154 (2005)

In McCorvey v. Hill, Norma McCorvey submitted an affidavit (June 11, 2003) to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Civil Action No. 3-3690-B and No. 3-3691-C). Norma carefully explains how she became involved in the Roe v. Wade case and how her later work at abortion clinics led her to understand that abortion "is a violent act which kills human beings and destroys the peace and the real interests of the mothers involved."

Links to Important Documents

1. Testimony of Norma McCorvey before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee (January 21, 1998).

2. Testimony of Norma McCorvey before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee (June 23, 2005).

3. Affidavit by Norma McCorvey (June 11, 2003) before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Civil Action No. 3-3690-B and No. 3-3691-C) in the case of McCorvey v. Hill.

4. Concurring Opinion by Judge Edith Jones in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in the case of McCorvey v. Hill (September 14, 2004).


Footnotes

[1] Roe v. Wade , 410 U.S. 113 (1973), 120.

[2] Norma McCorvey's testimony before Congress in 1998. See: "The 25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Has it Stood the Test of Time?:" Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism, and Property Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 105th Congress, 2 nd Session (January 21, 1998).

[3] Affidavit of Norma McCorvey (June 11, 2003), in McCorvey v. Hill (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Civil Action No. 3-3690-B and No. 3-3691-C).

[4] Ibid.

[5] See Norma McCorvey's testimony before Congress in 1998 as well as her testimony at the 2005 hearing, "The Consequences ofRoe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton:" Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 109 th Congress, 1st Session (June 23, 2005).

[6] Affidavit of Norma McCorvey, in McCorvey v. Hill.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Norma McCorvey's testimony before Congress in 2005.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Norma McCorvey with Gary Thomas, "Roe v. McCorvey," Roe No More Ministry homepage. See: www.roenomore.org/normas_story/testimony.htm.

[11] Norma McCorvey with Gary Thomas, Won by Love (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 155-56.

[12] McCorvey v. Hill, 385 F.3d 846 (5th Cir. 2004).

[13] McCorvey v. Hill , 543 U.S. 1154 (2005).

[14] See notes 2 and 5 above.

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