On Feb. 18, Norma McCovey, whose abortion case made it to Supreme Court of the United States, passed away at the age of 69.
McCorvey was the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. When McCorvey became pregnant in 1969 at the age of 21, her friends advised she falsely claim she was raped to obtain a legal abortion under the restrictive Texas law of the day. After attempting to procure an illegal abortion, lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were seeking abortion-minded women to test the constitutionality of abortion laws, took her case. They claimed she was unemployable and depressed and therefore needed to have access to abortion. They sued Dallas County district attorney Henry Wade so he would not enforce the Texas law that only permitted abortion in cases to save the mother’s life.
By the time the case began, McCorvey had delivered her child and put her up for adoption. McCorvey never attended trial and said she never read Coffee and Weddington’s affidavit. The case wound up before the Supreme Court of the United States within two years.
On Jan. 22, 1973, in a 7-2 decision, the Court threw out state and federal restrictions on abortion, and nearly 60 million preborn babies have been victims of the procedure since.
McCorvey went on to take a lesbian lover and work in abortion facilities until her conversion to Christianity in 1995. She called her role in legalizing abortion “the biggest mistake of my life.” She also said, “I long for the day that justice will be done and the burden from all of these deaths will be removed from my shoulders.”
In her second autobiography, Won by Love, McCorvey described her pro-life conversion while sitting in an Operation Rescue office: “I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’ … I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath.” She wrote, “I felt crushed under the truth of this realization … Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”
In 1998, she told a Senate subcommittee, “I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.” In 2005, McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, arguing that she had standing to do so as one of the original litigants; her lawyer argued the case should be reheard as there was new evidence that abortion harms women, but the Court denied her petition.
McCorvey became a pro-life activist, speaking to pro-life rallies, including the Washington March for Life, and began picketing prominent abortion supporters, including President Barack Obama when he spoke at Notre Dame.
In 1998 she was received into the Catholic Church by Fr. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. He said in a statement following her passing, “she was victimized and exploited by abortion ideologues when she was a young woman but she came to be genuinely sorry that a decision named for her has led to the deaths of more than 58 million children.”
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim, he met McCorvey on several occasions. He recalled the first time, “was in a small room with about 40 life and family leaders and she broke down while talking, and I went up and put my arm around her, and I called on Rev. Johnny Hunter, a black pastor, to lead us in a prayer for Norma and everyone got up and hugged her.”
Hughes said that McCorvey was “used by the abortion industry, she didn’t know about abortion and she was manipulated.”