McCorvey’s story began when she was 22 years. An unmarried carnival worker, she found herself pregnant for the third time and approached a lawyer to help her procure an abortion in the state of Texas, where she lived at the time, and where the procedure was against the law. Little did she know at the time, the case she initiated would become ground zero in the abortion wars that endure to this day.
The case was known as Roe v. Wade and was filed in 1970. It was not seeking a national ruling on a woman’s right to an abortion but merely to grant McCorvey the right to legally and safely end a pregnancy she didn’t wish to carry to term.
“I was a woman alone with no place to go and no job,” she told the Baptist Press years later. “No one wanted to hire a pregnant woman. I felt there was no one in the world who could help me.”
Even though the case was not resolved in time for McCorvey to have an abortion, a young pro-abortion feminist attorney Sarah Weddington used the case as a means to overturn Texas’ laws against abortion. The case ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court which ruled in favor of “Roe” and effectively invalidated every pro-life state law in the nation.
But that’s not the end of her story. In fact, in many ways, it was just the beginning.
In 1982, after learning that she had prevailed in the Supreme Court, McCorvey told the Dallas Morning News that she was bitter the case had not be resolved in time to allow her to have an abortion and instead had to give up her baby daughter through adoption.
“I was glad to know some other poor woman wouldn’t have to go through what I did,” McCorvey said at the time. “I thought at least she wouldn’t have to face the agony of waking up in the morning and driving to work and seeing kids walking and wondering which one was hers. Because it’s not easy to give up something you helped grow, regardless of how the seed got there.”
“Am I a role model? No. For much of my life, it is true, I have lived at the bottom edge of American society. For all those years I have battled oppression – but also my own demons. . . . I wasn’t the wrong person to become Jane Roe. I wasn’t the right person to become Jane Roe. I was just the person who became Jane Roe, of Roe v. Wade. And my life story, warts and all, was a little piece of history.”
Not long after this, in 1995, the Rev. Philip “Flip” Benham, the leader of the pro-life Operation Rescue, moved next door to the abortion clinic where McCorvey was working.
According to an article by Erica J. Parkerson in The Charlotte World, McCorvey had nothing but disdain for the pro-life folks who came and went from the same parking lot. She used to spit in their faces and call them every name in the book. For the pastor, Flip Benham, she reserved a special hatred and used to refer to him as “Flip Venom.”
One day, she told Benham he needed to go to a Beach Boys concert and was startled when he admitted he hadn’t been to one since 1976.
“Come on, Flip, I didn’t know you were ever a sinner,” she joked and again he surprised her by saying, “Miss Norma, I’m a great big sinner, saved by a great big God.”
McCorvey later confessed: “Of all the things I expected Flip to say, this wasn’t one of them. I didn’t like to think of Flip as human. Flip began sharing some stories of his past and out of this vulnerability an unlikely friendship was born.”
During this time, she also encountered a seven year-old girl name Emily, the daughter of an Operation Rescue volunteer named Ronda Mackey. Emily would innocently invite her to church, remind her about how Jesus wanted to forgive her and how all she had to do was ask.
“I wasn’t won over by compelling apologetics. I had a ninth grade education and a very soft heart,” McCorvey admitted later. “While the Operation Rescue adults targeted my mind, Emily went straight for the heart. And over time, Emily began to personify the issue of abortion.”
This was especially true when she learned that Emily’s mother had almost aborted her. One day, when she saw the bumper sticker on the back of Mackey’s car that read, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart,” she instantly thought of Emily.
“All the sudden, I saw Emily’s heart in that sticker and it just about destroyed me when I realized that ‘my law’ had almost snuffed out young Emily’s life,” wrote McCorvey. “I was forever changed by this experience. Abortion was no longer an ‘abstract right.’ It had a face now, in a little girl named Emily.”
Eventually, she began to stop challenging the Operation Rescue volunteers with her Book of Runes and crystals. “It wasn’t exactly Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but in both of our minds it was clearly a case of ‘may the true God win,'” wrote McCorvey.
The true God won on the day she was baptized by Benham, in front of network TV cameras.
But God wasn’t finished with her yet. She still had a lot of changes to make, both inside and outside, such as giving up her female lover, Connie Gonzales.
And, as Father Frank Pavone describes, she still thought some early abortions would be acceptable.
“She was open to truth, however, and truth did not let her go. It drew her further, and she quickly became convinced that abortion is wrong at any stage, no matter what the reason,” Father Pavone wrote just last year.
“In my contacts with her . . . I noticed her interest in Catholicism. Shortly after her baptism, she asked me to bless her home. (Not being used to the custom of holy water, she and her friend inadvertently drank the entire spare supply I left with them.)
“She attended with interest a Mass I celebrated in Dallas, and the following summer came with me to EWTN to tape a television interview. In the course of that interview, she asked me to bless the cross she wears, a cross which was made out of what used to be a pro-choice bracelet. Some months ago, Norma asked me to teach her to say the rosary.”
Father Pavone could see that she was being called to the Church but didn’t push things.
“I simply answered her questions, which she raised in her own time and her own way,” he said. “Then one day she sent me an email in which she told me that ‘The Big Boss’ told her she was to join the Church.”
She entered the Catholic Church in 1998 and spent the rest of her life fighting for life.
McCorvey gave birth to three children but only her first child, Melissa, was a part of her life. Melissa was at her mother’s side when she died in an assisted living facility in Katy, Texas on Saturday morning.
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