|Born||Norma Leah Nelson
September 22, 1947
Simmesport, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana
|Other names||Jane Roe|
|Occupation||Director, Crossing Over Ministry|
|Known for||Roe v. Wade|
|Spouse(s)||Woody McCorvey (m. 1963–1965)|
|Partner(s)||Connie Gonzales (1970–1993)|
Norma Leah McCorvey (née Nelson; born September 22, 1947), better known by the legal pseudonym "Jane Roe", was the plaintiff in the landmark American lawsuit Roe v. Wade in 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional. Later, McCorvey's opinion on abortion changed substantially, and she is now is a Roman Catholic active in pro-life causes.
McCorvey was born in Lettesworth, Louisiana, and raised in Houston, Texas. McCorvey's father left the family when she was 13 years old and her parents subsequently divorced. She and her older brother were raised by their mother Mildred, a violent alcoholic. McCorvey's father died on September 27, 1995. She is of partial Cajun and Cherokee ancestry.
Norma's troubles started at the age of 10, when she robbed the cash register at a gas station, and ran away to Oklahoma City with a friend. They tricked a hotel worker into letting them rent a room, and were there for 2 days when a maid walked in on her and her female friend kissing. McCorvey was taken by the police and eventually to court, where she was declared ward of the state and sent away to Mount St. Michaels in Dallas, where she was raped by a young nun. She was then sent to the State School for Girls in Gainesville, Florida on and off from ages 11–15. She said this was the happiest time of her childhood, and every time she was sent home, would purposefully do something bad to be sent back. After being released, she lived with her mother’s cousin who raped her every night for 3 weeks straight. When Norma's mother found out, her cousin said Norma was making up the whole thing.
While working at a restaurant, Norma met a man that would change her entire life. His name was Woody McCorvey (born 1940), and she married him at the age of 16. She later left him after he abused her. She moved in with her mother and gave birth to her first child, Melissa (born 1965). After Melissa's birth, McCorvey developed a serious drinking problem and became a lesbian. She went on a weekend trip to visit two friends, and left her baby with her mother. When she returned, her mother replaced Melissa with a baby doll and reported her to the police as having abandoned her baby, and called the police to take her out of the house. She would not tell her where Melissa was for weeks, and finally let her visit her child after 3 months. She let McCorvey move back in, and one day woke Norma up after a long day of work. She told her to sign insurance papers, and Norma did so without reading. However, she actually signed adoption papers, giving her mother custody of Melissa, and was then kicked out of the house. The following year, McCorvey again became pregnant and gave birth to a baby that was placed for adoption.
Roe v. Wade
In 1969, at the age of 21, while working low-paying jobs and living with her father, McCorvey became pregnant a third time. She returned to Dallas, where friends advised her to assert falsely that she had been raped, as she would then be eligible to obtain a legal abortion (with the understanding that Texas's pro-life laws allowed abortion in the cases of rape and incest). Due to lack of police evidence or documentation, the scheme was not successful and McCorvey would later admit the situation was a fabrication. She attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but the respective clinics had been closed down by authorities.
Eventually, McCorvey was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were looking for pregnant women that were seeking an abortion. Whenever she told the lawyers that she was a lesbian, they were disappointed, so she also lied and told them that she was raped. She signed the papers, and thus began Roe v. Wade. As soon as she’d signed the affidavit, she served her only needed purpose and use for the trial. The case took three years of trials to reach the United States Supreme Court, and Norma never even attended one trial. In the meantime, McCorvey had given birth to the baby in question, who was eventually adopted.
McCorvey revealed herself to the press as being "Jane Roe" of the decision within days of its issuance and stated that she sought an abortion because she was unemployable and greatly depressed. In the 1980s, McCorvey asserted that she had been the "pawn" of two young and ambitious lawyers (Weddington and Coffee) who were looking for a plaintiff with whom they could challenge the Texas state law prohibiting abortion.
Books and conversion
In her first book, the 1994 autobiography, I Am Roe, McCorvey wrote of her sexual orientation. For many years, she had lived quietly in Dallas with her long-time partner, Connie Gonzales. "We're not like other lesbians, going to bars," she explained in a New York Times interview. "We're lesbians together. We're homers." That same year, she converted to Christianity and expressed remorse for her part in the Supreme Court decision. McCorvey has worked as part of the pro-life movement, such as Operation Rescue.
At a signing of I Am Roe, McCorvey was befriended by evangelical minister Flip Benham. She was baptized on August 8, 1995, by Benham in a Dallas, Texas, backyard swimming pool, an event that was filmed for national television. Two days later she announced that she had quit her job at the abortion clinic she was working at, and had become an advocate of Operation Rescue's campaign to make abortion illegal.
McCorvey's second book, Won by Love, was published in 1998. She explained her change on the stance of abortion with the following comments:
I was sitting in O.R.'s offices when 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 had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that's a baby! It's as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that's a baby!
I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn't about 'products of conception'. It wasn't about 'missed periods'. It was about children being killed in their mother's wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.
McCorvey has also stated that she is no longer a lesbian. On August 17, 1998, she was received into the Catholic Church by Father Frank Pavone, the International Director of Priests for Life and Father Edward Robinson in Dallas.
Social and political causes
In February 2005, McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision with McCorvey v. Hill, arguing that the case should be heard once again in light of evidence that the procedure harms women, but the petition was denied.
On January 22, 2008, McCorvey endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. McCorvey stated, "I support Ron Paul for president because we share the same goal, that of overturning Roe v. Wade. He has never wavered on the issue of being pro-life and has a voting record to prove it. He understands the importance of civil liberties for all, including the unborn."
McCorvey is still active in pro-life demonstrations including one she participated in before President Barack Obama's commencement address to the graduates of the Catholic University of Notre Dame. The decision to have Obama speak at the university on May 17, 2009, was met with controversy because of the conflict between his views on abortion and those of the Catholic Church. She was arrested on the first day of U.S. Senate hearings for the confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States of Sonia Sotomayor after she and another protester started yelling during the opening statement of Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).
McCorvey made her acting debut in Doonby, shot on location in 2010 in the small central Texas town of Smithville. Starring John Schneider, Jenn Gotzon, and Robert Davi, the film previewed at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in the fall of 2011.
- I Am Roe (1994) ISBN 0-06-017010-7 ISBN 0-06-092638-4
- Won by Love (1998) ISBN 0-7852-7237-2 ISBN 0-7567-7332-6
- Duin, Julia (February 19, 1996). "Roe finds god, prays for life". Retrieved March 31, 2012.
- Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. (2010). Roe v. Wade. Brigitte H. Bechtold and Donna Cooper Graves (eds), An Encyclopedia of Infanticide. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, pp. 227-228.
- "Norma McCorvey; Of Roe, Dreams And Choices" By Alex Witchel in The New York Times (July 28, 1994)
- Roe v. McCorvey
- McCorvey, Norma (1994). I Am Roe. Harper Collins. p. 11. ISBN 0-06-017010-7.
- 'These steps are covered with blood', The Guardian, 6 July 2009.
- McCorvey, Norma (1994). I Am Roe. Harper Collins. pp. 23–47. ISBN 0-06-017010-7.
- "The Woman Behind Roe V. Wade". People. May 22, 1989.
- McCorvey, Norma (1994). I Am Roe. Haper Collins. ISBN 0-06-017010-7.
- McCorvey, Norma. Won by Love (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), p. 241.
- McCorvey, Norma. Testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights (1998-01-21), quoted in the parliament of Western Australia (PDF) (1998-05-20).
- McCorvey, Norma and Meisler, Andy. I Am Roe: My Life, Roe V. Wade, and Freedom of Choice (Harpercollins, May, 1994) (Copyright © 2009 Farlex, Inc.) Retrieved (2009-08-20).
- CNN.com - Who is 'Jane Roe'?, Jun. 18, 2003
- Miss Norma & Her Baby: Two Victims Who Got Away
- McCorvey, Norma (1997). Won by Love. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0-7852-7237-2.
- Priests for Life: Norma McCorvey's Ministry and Website
- http://www.priestsforlife.org/columns/conversionofnorma.html The Conversion of Norma McCorvey. Priests for Life. Rev. Frank Pavone
- Duin, Julia (January 21, 1996), "Jane Roe's 'turn to God' complete", The Washington Times
- 'Jane Roe' endorses Paul - msnbc.com
- "'Jane Roe' Arrested at Supreme Court Hearing", Washington Post, July 13, 2009
- Bond, Paul (May 4, 2011). "Woman at Center of Roe v. Wade Stars in Abortion-Themed Movie (Exclusive)". Retrieved June 20, 2011.
- Norma McCorvey's website: "Roe No More"
- CNN: 2003 article
- CNN: 1998 special article profiling Norma McCorvey
- Father Frank Pavone interviews McCorvey
- Roe v. Wade at the Internet Movie Database
- Prager, Joshua (February 2013). "The Accidental Activist". Vanity Fair.