Living With the Ghosts of Roe
Twenty-five years after Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe, reflects on her change of heart about a woman's "right to choose."
BY Peter Sonski
June 21-27, 1998 Issue | Posted 6/21/98 at 2:00 PM
Jan. 22, 1998 marked the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion on demand in the United States. Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the case, used the alias of “Jane Roe.” In one of the most celebrated events in the recent history of the pro-life movement, she repudiated her role in the case. Earlier this month McCorvey announced her plans to enter the Catholic Church. Register assistant editor Peter Sonski recently spoke with her in her home state of Texas.
Sonski: The name Norma McCorvey wasn't well known in the pro-life movement before you decided to become a part of it. The news that “Jane Roe” of
Norma McCorvey: Jane Roe was a very sad, very discontented person.
In January of 1973 when the decision was handed down, she found out about Roe v. Wade just like everybody else did: she read it in the papers — even though she was the plaintiff.
She didn't get any special consideration because she had been the plaintiff. The reason for that is still unknown, but from what I've gathered, once “Jane Roe” signed the affidavit that brought the holocaust of killing children into being, then she was no longer important to the pro-abortion people.
“Jane Roe”: former drug addict, former drug dealer, former alcoholic, former lesbian — I mean I can sit here for 30 minutes and tell you the “formers” that she was. “Jane Roe” used to have lots of problems because she wanted something right for women, but she just didn't know what that right was.
How were you convinced or persuaded that what you were doing 25 years ago by allowing your case to decide this crucial issue was going to be “right” for women?
I had been told that women should have the right to control their own bodies and their own reproductive systems, simply because it was due them. In other words, the reason why I signed on to Roe v. Wade was that I fell for all the old feminist rhetoric that had many other women completely bamboozled. I was told in one meeting that by giving women the right to freely choose to exterminate their own children would put an end to rape and incest.
Just by your agreeing to be the plaintiff in this case? Just that action was going to put an end to rape and incest as we know it in the United States?
Obviously, it has gone in the other direction; it has increased.
Right, absolutely — 100%, if not 1,000%.
What did they tell you afterward, when the results you mention didn't come about?
They didn't care. I honestly think that they did not care.
Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee and [the National Organization for Women] had a hidden agenda that started back in the early 1950s. Now this is just my opinion; I have no documentation. Thinking that once they got abortion legalized in Texas — because from what I understand, Texas had to be the test state in order to legalize abortion throughout the land, because Texas was the only one that had restrictions on abortion. So, by getting a woman in Texas, especially a pregnant woman who had sought an illegal abortion, then what they could do with their agenda was to go to all 50 states and legalize abortion throughout the land, across the board.
For the record, did you abort that child?
No. I never did.
You delivered the child?
I gave birth to that child June 2, 1970. There have been about 25 women or 30 women over the last 25 years who have claimed to be the Roe baby. Of course we understand why that happened. A lot of people think that when people go to the Supreme Court they have a lot of money and a lot of political pull, of which I have neither…. You can pretty well figure out what they're looking for — if she's got a lot of money, they may want to cash in on that — I think that's called extortion.
So the baby was given up for adoption?
Yes, I gave the baby up for adoption.
And you had two children previous to that?
Yes. I had my first born, Melissa. She's made me a grandmother twice. Then there was Paige, my second daughter. I gave her to her father who was an intern at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, and then came the famous Roe baby.
After this Supreme Court judgment was handed down, how did the pro-abortion movement support or care for you?
I was used and discarded like yesterday's trash. I got no support from them whatsoever. For heaven's sake, I read about Roe v. Wade in the newspaper. I wasn't even given any special consideration like a phone call saying, “Hey, Norma, we won.” Now this is sad. It's very sad.
You never had any further contact with your lawyers?
I had very sporadic contact with the attorneys after I signed the affidavit.
It sounds as if you were just a figurehead?
I don't mean that in a derogatory manner.
I'm not thin-skinned. What they needed was someone who was naive enough to sign that affidavit. What they weren't counting on was that I came out of all of this a very strong woman. I'm not saying a feminist — just a strong-willed woman. I am an ex-construction worker, for heaven's sake. I've cleaned windows on a scaffold 18-stories high.
I guess they thought that with the emotional problems I had from my childhood I would break and wake up one day and just try to commit suicide, and that would be the end of me. They would much rather make me a martyr than to have me alive, so that would enforce what they were doing. But what they weren't counting on was that God, in all of his infinite wisdom and glory, knew exactly what they were doing, even before they thought about it. He protected Jane Roe from Norma McCorvey — and Normal McCorvey from Jane Roe.
I have scars, and a few bad memories, but it's nothing I can't deal with, because God was watching over me. I know that, because I would not be sitting here today talking to you had it not been true.
When did you first begin to realize that?
I've got to tell you, seriously, I was sitting in northern California in a teepee, in an Indian sweat one night in 1989 or 1990 and I couldn't understand why all these women were sitting around in bath towels calling God “goddess.”
I was a crystal gazer, a New Ager. I went back to the house thinking that I had stayed up all night because something was very heavy on my heart and I never really talked to God. I didn't know how. And I said, “Some say you're a God, some say you're a woman. I don't know, but I'm talking to God. I'm talking to the Creator that I learned of when I was a child. And I know that you see everything that is happening down here and I want you to know that I'm really sorry for ever getting involved with this abortion crap.” That was the closest thing I could ever come to for a prayer.
I left the Church when I was very young — at about nine years old — and I didn't go back into another church until 1995 because I was just too upset and too confused. I knew that there had to be a reason for my existence, and the only thing that made any sense at all was that there was a true God and that he really did care.
It took some searching, praying, and discerning before you came to a better understanding. That was about when, 1995?
Well it was probably a lot sooner than that but I really can't give you a year. Things kept happening to me in the abortion industry.
When did you go to work in the clinic?
From 1991 to 1995. And I kept telling myself, “This isn't right. This is not a good thing. This is a bad thing. There are too many people walking out of this place crying. Why is it that they're crying? If they have truly exercised their constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion, then why are they so upset? There has got to be a reason for all this. Because otherwise, it is not valid.”
Like I said, I don't know when it really was. I guess it was the time that [my co-worker] Connie came to my office. She is Spanish and Italian, but she was white — she was as white as a sheet. I said to her, “What is wrong with you?” And she said, “I just heard someone running down the hallway.” We were working in an abortion clinic, and I said, “OK, well let's go check the hallways.” We got up and checked and there was no one in sight.
A couple of hours later she came back and said “Did you hear that?” And I said, “Hear what?” “It sounded like a child” she said, running down the hallway. We got up and checked again. [Nobody was there.]
Had she had an abortion?
No she had never had an abortion. She was just another abortion clinic worker.
Working beside you?
Yes. Or it could have been the time that I went outside to pick flowers for the recovery room, and the flowers started crying.
Making noises, like babies crying. We had experienced too many things in the abortion clinic — too many unexplainable things that were totally freaking us out and making us very uneasy. I went in and I told Connie, “The flowers are crying. How can I pick the flowers when the flowers are crying? They sound like babies crying.”
That was the first time that I looked up into the heavens and said, “OK, God, what are you trying to tell me?”
What he was trying to tell me was that he already had a plan, and that he knew that we would walk out of that abortion clinic and that we would repudiate our position on abortion. And that's exactly what happened.
Do you believe that, someday,
What will it take to bring about the ultimate end of
I had a videotape made of my testimony, called Reversing Roe. I took nine of those videos to the Supreme Court justices in 1996 and I asked them to reconsider their position on abortion by watching my testimony.
I don't know what it's going to take. I don't know who it's going to take — surely not me; I am not legislatively savvy. All I can do is pray. All I can do is speak out against abortion and try to convince young women that want to hurt their children not to hurt their children.
I think that's all any of us can do at this point. I think the Lord will do this. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but probably in our grandchildren's lifetime. I really do believe it.
Does your involvement in this decision, which has cost this nation millions upon millions of lives, weigh on you? If not, how were you able to shed a sense of guilt?
I have shed it mostly because I have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, and because I pray every night for him to forgive me.
What would you tell a woman who has had an abortion and can't let go of that guilt or shame?
I'd tell her to get in touch with her priest or her pastor and to talk to her God, and to forgive herself. Because if you ask the Lord for forgiveness, it is very simple, he'll do it.
McCorvey to Enter Catholic Church
DALLAS—Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe” of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision has declared her intention to become a Catholic. She made the announcement while attending an June 8 ecumenical service at Trinity Church in Waco, Texas.
“For the past few months, I was considering the completeness of my new-found faith in Christianity,” McCorvey said. “I want to thank God, who is my holy Father, my Lord Jesus Christ, and the Blessed Virgin Mary for helping me. I now want to complete that process by coming home to my Mother Church, the Roman Catholic Church.”
She attributed, among the influences leading to the decision, the “peaceful, prayerful, and persistent Catholic presence at abortion mills.”
McCorvey will begin receiving instructions in the faith from Father Edward Robinson, pro-life coordinator for the Diocese of Dallas, who expected the process to last two to three months. No date has been set for her to receive the sacraments.
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