Norma McCorvey, known as the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, died of heart failure on February 18. She was 69 years old. As the centerpiece of one of America’s most controversial court cases, securing the right for women to have an abortion, she herself turned away from it, converting to Roman Catholicism and anti-abortion activist.
Pregnant for a third time, she came to the attention of a pair of lawyers looking to challenge Texas abortion statutes. Said one of them about their search for a plaintiff, “It had to be a pregnant woman wanting to get an abortion. She couldn’t have the funds to travel to California or New York for a legal abortion. And we had to have someone who could take the publicity. We weren’t able to guarantee her anonymity.” Jane Roe could have been anyone, but she was Norma McCorvey.
She acted as a pro-choice activist for more than a decade before switching sides and creating pro-life groups with names like Roe No More. In an autobiography, she wrote, “I felt crushed under the truth of this realization … All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong … Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”
While securing the right for women to have an abortion, she did not have an abortion herself because the case lasted much longer than her pregnancy. In that time, she gave birth and placed the baby up for adoption. The identity of the child has never been revealed.