The Roe Most Don’t Know

Hannah Ellis | January 29, 2016 | 10:15am EST
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Norma McCorvey, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands outside the Supreme Court in 1989. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Roe: a name that has lived in infamy since the Roe v. Wade decision. But have you ever wondered who the woman is behind the name?

For starters, that isn’t her actual name.

“Roe” is simply the pseudonym that was used for a woman named Norma McCorvey. If that caught some of you off guard, what about the fact that she actually never had an abortion and is now a staunch pro-life advocate? In a lengthy affidavit to a New Jersey District Court in 2000, Norma detailed her story. Quite unexpectedly, the “Roe” I had for years painted in my mind is no more. Her story is powerful and one that abortionists would not want disseminated. Seeing as this month marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it’s not just applicable but significant to share.

Norma McCorvey became pregnant with her third child out of wedlock and was pursuing the idea of receiving an abortion; however, since abortion was illegal and at the time rather taboo, she wasn’t able to obtain truth or fully grasp the implications. Norma planned on illegally aborting her baby at a clinic she had heard about, but when she arrived at the location given to her, the center was not there. She remembers leaving frustrated yet relieved. Later, an adoption attorney referred her to an attorney named Sarah Weddington.

Norma met with Sarah and Sarah’s fellow attorney, Linda Coffee. Over pizza, the two detailed to Norma their plan to bring a class action lawsuit against the State of Texas with hopes of legalizing abortion in their state. The three decided if she agreed to move forward, she would go by another name throughout the case. Since unnamed women are often called “Jane Doe” by default and many women seeking an illegal abortion wouldn’t carry identification, they switched the “D” in Doe to an “R,” making Norma’s official pseudonym Jane Roe.

The two attorneys asked if Norma wanted an abortion, and she recalls not being certain. However, she felt that she could trust them, so when the two women asked her to sign the affidavit, she did so without reading the conditions. In her words,    

“I never looked the word up in the dictionary until after I had already signed the affidavit. I was very naíve. For their part, my lawyers lied to me about the nature of abortion. Weddington convinced me that ‘It’s just a piece of tissue. You just missed your period.’ I didn’t know during the Roe v. Wade case that the life of a human being was terminated. … The abortion decision that destroyed every state law protecting the rights of women and their unborn babies was based on a fundamental misrepresentation.”

According to Norma, she felt used — but mostly in namesake. During the preceding trials, she wasn’t called upon to testify in court once. She said,

“I found out about the decision from the newspaper just like the rest of the country. In a way my exclusion, and the exclusion of real meaningful findings of fact in Roe v. Wade, is symbolic of the way the women of the nation and their experiences with abortion have been ignored in a national debate by the abortion industry. It is what the abortion industry thinks is good for women which is presented. Not the reality of their experiences.”

It may come as a surprise; Norma didn’t end up having an abortion. She put her child up for adoption. But because she was “Jane Roe,” abortion clinics recruited her; since the centers paid more than minimum wage, she accepted the opportunities. She recalls that her time spent in the abortion clinics was horrific. In her testimony, she described the offices as despicable, strewn with rat droppings and blood on the walls. They contained dirty rooms filled with jars of baby body parts with “little tiny hands and feet visible.” Thinking back, she said that she’s seen veterinary clinics that were more sanitary and better controlled than the places she’s worked.

In her opinion, money, not the women, was the ultimate concern of these clinics. She watched as women were destroyed by the horrific practices and the emotionally and physically scarring procedures. She said that the clinics were not honest with the women about what was being done to their bodies. What’s more, she is living proof that abortion is detrimental to the well-being of clinic workers. The way Norma put it,

“The abortion business is an inherently dehumanizing one. A person has to let her heart and soul die or go numb to stay in practice. The clinic workers suffer, the women suffer, and the babies die.”

Norma became depressed and drowned herself in alcohol to dull the pain of the Roe v. Wade decision weighing on her as well as the despicable work she was participating in on a daily basis. In a testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee in 2005, Norma said this:

“… I became even more emotionally confused and conflicted between what my conscience knew to be evil, and what the judges, my mind and my need for money were telling me was OK. I saw women crying in the recovery rooms. If abortion is so right, why were the women crying? Even Senator Hillary Clinton on January 25, 2005, was reported by the New York Times to finally admit ‘that abortion is a sad, even tragic choice for many, many women.’ Actually it is a tragic choice for every child that is killed and every woman and man who participates in killing their own child, whether they know it at the time or not.”

During her tenure at a Dallas abortion clinic, a group of pro-life activists moved into the same building — some of whom became friends with her. She began attending church and ultimately recognized the evil that is abortion. She met her Savior Jesus Christ, asked for forgiveness and healing from Almighty God, turned from her past, and has now dedicated herself to the pro-life movement. She has testified before Congress and even tried to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision. She also began a ministry called Roe No More, a non-profit seeking “to spread the sanctity of all life and the intrinsic right to life, especially of the unborn.” In her book, Won by Love, she detailed becoming the poster child for the pro-choice movement and how she later recognized “that the real choice she had been burdened with was not about abortion but about eternal life.”

Just as “Roe” is not the person whom she’s been painted to be, abortion is not what the left has painted it to be, either.

Hannah Wegman serves as a policy analyst for Concerned Women for America, the largest public policy women's organization in the nation.

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