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Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v Wade, Dies at 69

McCorvey’s case led to landmark abortion ruling

Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, has died. She was 69.

Journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about the case, confirmed her death in an assisted-living facility in Katy, Texas, where she was suffering from a heart ailment.

McCorvey was only 22 in 1970 when she filed a lawsuit to legally and safely end a pregnancy. At the time, abortion was prohibited in most of the country except when the mother’s life was at risk.

At the time, McCorvey was an unmarried carnival worker who had become pregnant for the third time and wanted an abortion. She was neither wanting nor expecting a far-reaching ruling that would eventually end up in the Supreme Court, but that’s what happened.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down the historic 7-to-2 ruling that articulated that the right to privacy included the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Texas filed an appeal, which dragged on for nearly three years. When the court’s decision was finally announced, her baby was two-and-a-half years old and she had given the child up for adoption.

When the case was in courts and for many years after, McCorvey said the pregnancy was the result of a rape. But in 1987, she recanted, saying it happened “through what I thought was love.”

In 1989, with her attorney Gloria Allred at her side, McCorvey — who had since become a Christian — held a press conference in which she flipped sides on the debate, saying, “I still have a lot of shame for being involved with Roe v. Wade. Even though I know I’ve been forgiven by God, to tell you the truth, most of the time I can’t forgive myself.”

Allred released the following statement upon learning on McCorvey’s death:

Norma McCorvey was a very complicated  person. When I met her she was very committed to a woman’s right to choose legal, safe, available and affordable abortions and she was very proud that she was “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade, the landmark  1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which decided that a woman has a constitutional right to choose abortion at certain stages of her pregnancy. She was very disappointed and angry, however, that she was not being recognized as “Jane Roe” by the pro choice movement and was not being invited to be a leading voice for those who supported Roe v. Wade. Norma asked me to represent her and assist her. I agreed, because I felt  that she should have a voice in support of choice. Years later, Norma decided to switch to the anti choice, anti Roe v. Wade side. There she found the continuing financial support that she was seeking and needed. She also developed a religious belief that helped her to justify her new position and which gave her comfort. Even though Norma remained in favor of mandatory motherhood until the end of her life, she continued to communicate with me over the years, including recently. She always said that she loved me, appreciated the help that I provided to her and hoped to see me again either in Texas or Los Angeles. Even though at the end of her life Norma thought women should be prevented from having an abortion and that abortion should be criminalized, her legacy will be Roe v. Wade, which has provided millions of women the legal right to choose abortion, a right which remains under attack and which I am committed to protect.

My condolences go out to her family. May Norma McCorvey rest in peace.

For a time, McCorvey worked in abortion clinics “trying to please everyone and trying to be hardcore pro-choice,” she told Time magazine.

She went on to write two memoirs, “I Am Roe” and “Won By Love,” founded the Dallas-based Roe No More ministry and was arrested in 2009 for disrupting a Senate confirmation hearing on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

McCorvey is survived by her daughter Melissa and two grandchildren.

Watch The Washington Post’s video on McCorvey above.

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