Norma McCorvey died Feb. 18 from heart failure at age 69 in Katy, Texas.
McCorvey was known as “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade abortion decision that came down from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.
In 1970, McCorvey was homeless and living on the streets. She found herself facing an unplanned pregnancy and sued the state of Texas, because abortion was illegal at that time. When lawyer Sarah Weddington approached her about using her case to push for legalization of abortion, McCorvey agreed.
“Many believe that she was very much coerced into that situation,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, told the Catholic News Agency, “and was encouraged to lie about the situation being the result of a rape.”
McCorvey never did abort her child, but her pseudonymn became forever linked to the case that wrongly created a constitutional right to abortion through all 9 months of pregnancy.
In the 1990s, Norma was working for an abortion facility in Dallas when she met a young girl named Emily Mackey, whose family worked with a pro-life clinic in the same building. Emily began asking her to come to church. Eventually, McCorvey would take her up on that offer, and it was there that she gave her life to Christ.
“Ultimately, Norma’s story after Roe was not one of bitterness, but of forgiveness,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser with the Susan B. Anthony List. “She chose healing and reconciliation in her Christian faith. She overcame the lies of the abortion industry and its advocates and spoke out against the horror that still oppresses so many. Of Roe she said, ‘I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.’ In her memory and in her honor, we will carry on that work.”
McCorvey’s life was not easy after becoming a Christian. Many who had hailed her as a hero began to deride her as a traitor. Even Weddington, the lawyer who convinced her to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court, was bitter. Melissa Clement writes about asking the attorney over dessert one evening, “Whatever happened to Roe?”
“She’s a stupid piece of white trash,” Weddington said. “She’s pro-life and a Christian. She’s a piece of trash. She was stupid when we found her, and she’s worse now.”
For McCorvey’s part, she embraced forgiveness for Weddington and others. When asked by Clement some years later whether she knew what happened to the lawyers in Roe, especially Weddington, McCorvey was candid.
“I haven’t heard from them in years,” she told Clement. “They were not nice women. They were not nice to me. I heard she (Weddington) has breast cancer. I pray for her.”
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life was a close friend of McCorvey for more than 20 years. He summed up her life and her ultimate mission.
“This moment can be one more step forward in America’s realization that Roe vs. Wade has never been, nor can it ever be, a solution to our problems, but rather that the only proper response to Roe vs. Wade is the response that Roe herself ultimately had to it.”
McCorvey had been in failing health for some time. She had a large and loving family who are grieving their loss, including 3 daughters.
“Losing a loved one is always a difficult time for a family,” the family wrote in a statement. “Losing a loved one who was also a public figure at the center of a national controversy brings additional challenges. It also brings additional consolations.
“We are, therefore, grateful to so many people across America and around the world who, in these days, are expressing their condolences, their prayers and their gratitude for the example Mom gave them in standing up for life and truth. Though she was the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, she worked hard for the day when that decision would be reversed.”