‘Jane Roe’ Of Roe V. Wade Died A Pro-Life Advocate

She was the poster child for the pro-choice movement. So whatchanged?

‘Jane Roe’ Of Roe V. Wade Died A Pro-Life Advocate

Ilana Gordon

McCorvey, center, at an anti-abortion rally in Austin, Texas in 2001. | Joe Raedle/Getty

She was the poster child for the pro-choice movement. So what changed?

Norma McCorvey never had an abortion; nevertheless, she became the face of the pro-choice movement. Then, 22 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, Norma switched sides, rebranding herself as a born-again Christian (later converting to Roman Catholicism) and pro-life advocate.

Norma was born on September 22, 1947 to an abusive mother and absentee father. Raised in Louisiana, she only achieved a ninth-grade education. Her teenage years were tumultuous, drug-fueled — and fertile: Norma became pregnant twice before the age of nineteen. Her mother raised the first child; the second was given up for adoption.

In September 1969, Norma was 22, pregnant for a third time and living in Texas. At the time, abortion was only legal in six states and Norma could not afford to travel to any of them. Her doctor connected her to an adoption lawyer named Henry McCluskey, who referred her to another lawyer named Linda Coffee. Linda was looking for a plaintiff she could use in an abortion case against Texas and Norma fit the bill perfectly.

In 1970, Norma McCorvey filed a lawsuit against a Dallas County district attorney named Henry Wade. The Roe v. Wade hearing began in May 1970 and ended on June 17. Norma never got her abortion: Her third child was born before a ruling was handed down. A family adopted the baby and its identity remains secret to this day.

Roe v. Wade ruled in favor of Norma, but the defendants quickly appealed. The case moved to the Supreme Court, where on January 22, 1973, the court ruled that women had the right to obtain an abortion “free of interference by the State.” For the first time, women across the United States had the freedom to obtain legal abortions during the first two trimesters of their pregnancies.

McCorvey at a 2005 press conference. | Travis Lindquist/Getty

After Roe v. Wade

After the Supreme Court verdict, Norma chose not to remain anonymous. She outed herself to the Baptist Press on January 26, 1973, saying, “It’s great to know that other women will not have to go through what I did.”

In the years that followed, Norma attempted to get her life back on track. She moved in with her partner, Connie Gonzalez; the two worked as house cleaners and were active in Dallas’ lesbian social scene. Norma spoke with the press annually, usually around the anniversary of the landmark ruling. She told the media she became pregnant after being raped, but recanted in 1987, admitting the sex had been consensual.

In 1994, Norma published her first book, “I Am Roe,” chronicling her quest to obtain an abortion. A year later, she had a change of heart: While working at a woman’s clinic, Norma befriended the evangelical minister and national director of the pro-life group who’d opened up shop next door. A few months later, she was baptized and became born again. The head of Texans United for Life summed up the about-face succinctly, saying, “The poster child has jumped off the poster.”

Many believe Norma’s change of heart had less to do with religion than money: Becoming pro-life allowed Norma to establish a foundation called Roe No More Ministry, which paid a steady, annual salary. She negotiated an advance for another book deal, “Won By Love,” and traveled the country, giving speeches and raising money for the pro-life movement.

After becoming born again, Norma renounced not only abortion, but also homosexuality. She continued to live with her partner, although she described their relationship as “platonic.” In 2004, Connie Gonzalez suffered a stroke; a year later, Norma abandoned her.

On Saturday, February 18th, 2017, Norma passed away from heart failure in an assisted living facility. Her name is synonymous with the pro-choice movement, but she died identifying as pro-life: In 2012, Norma received $1000 to appear in a regional ad, advising voters to cast their ballots against Barack Obama with these words: “He murders babies.”