Norma McCorvey. Many don’t know that name, but those that do know her as plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case which legalized abortion. She was an icon first for the pro-abortion movement, then later a keen pro-life advocate.
McCorvey remained a strong pro-life advocate right up until her recent death. McCorvey died on February 18th of a respiratory condition exacerbated by pneumonia at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Texas. She was only 69 years old.
On Sunday, February 19th, Reverend Philip ‘Flip’ Benham sat down with American Lens’ George Fisher and A.P. Dillon to talk about the life, baptism and rebirth of Norma McCorvey.
Listen to the audio from the interview:
About Norma McCorvey
She was born Norma Leah McCorvey on September 22, 1947 in Simmesport, Louisiana.
The 7-to-2 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade declared that individual state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional and allowed for women to seek an abortion at any point during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The decision set of a firestorm of debate that still rages today.
At the time her legal journey began, McCorvey was 21, had two children already and was pregnant with a third child. McCorvey was homeless, desperate and her two daughters were being raised by other people. At the time, abortion was illegal in Texas where she resided. McCorvey never did end up having an abortion and had the third child, another girl.
McCorvey came forward in 1984 and named herself as being Jane Roe. When she shed her anonymity, the pro-abortion movement seized the moment and thrust McCorvey into the spotlight as the leader of a national movement.
After being thrust onto the national stage by pro-abortion groups, McCorvey later revealed more about her past, what led to Roe v Wade. She said she was now a lesbian, admitted to stealing, selling and taking drugs and that the story about her pregnancy being the result of rape was not true. In fact, the rape story had been a total fabrication, as was the claim she had once had an abortion, which she told to her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee.
McCorvey recounted the details of these revelations in an affidavit filed in a New Jersey case in 2000. In that affidavit, McCorvey states that, Virtually the entire basis for Roe v. Wade was built upon false assumptions.
“No meaningful trial to determine the real facts was ever held. The misrepresentations and deceptions that plagued Roe v. Wade are presented to this Court to show why there is a dire necessity for a trial to ensure that the true facts regarding the nature of abortion and the interests of women are heard. These facts, which were neither disclosed to me in 1970 nor to the plaintiffs of this case before they had an abortion, are critical for understanding the issues involved. They point out the deficiencies not only of the procedure in Roe v. Wade, but in the Court’s decision which was rendered in a vacuum devoid of findings of facts. Consequently, we obtained a decision in Roe v. Wade based upon what abortion advocates wanted women to be able to do, not what women were truly capable of. In this case, witnesses and accurate, current, relevant scientific evidence are available to this Court, on all relevant fact issues. In 1973, in Roe, that evidence was neither offered nor available. We now have the benefit of twenty-seven years of experimentation.”
McCorvey’s affidavit also says that the Roe v Wade case was, factually and legally unsound decision.”
In that same affidavit, McCorvey laid bare her troubled background and past abuse but said that the worst abuse came at the hands of her attorneys and the judicial system:
“Although I was an emotionally abused child, and a sexually abused teenager, I believe the worst abuse was inflicted by the judicial system. In retrospect, I was exploited by two self-interested attorneys. Worse, the courts, without looking into my true circumstances and taking the time to decide the real impact abortion would have upon women, I feel used me to justify legalization of terminating of the lives of over 35 million babies. Although on an intellectual level I know it was exploited, the responsibility I feel for this tragedy is overwhelming.”
McCorvey, in a 1995 Nightline interview said that of all the sins she had committed, being the plaintiff in Roe v Wade was the biggest one.
In 1994, McCorvey was confronted by Philip ‘Flip’ Benham at a signing of her book, I Am Roe: My Life, Roe V. Wade, and Freedom of Choice. Benham was not allowed near the book signing, so he stood across the street and yelled to her about the ’26 million baby boys and girls’ that had been murdered under a court decision that bore her name.
That initial confrontation would set wheels in motion that would forever change her life.
Benham was a local Evangelical Christian Minister in the area, who originally hailed from North Carolina. Reverend Benham has since returned to North Carolina and continues his ministry work as well as his pro-choice activism.
Rev. Benham is well-known for his involvement with the pro-life group, Operation Rescue. The organization was renamed in 1999 to Operation Save America.
The first office for Operation Rescue opened right next door to a reproductive health care clinic where McCorvey worked at the time. The two diametrically opposed organizations were now sharing a parking lot and fireworks were bound to go off.
While their interactions were at first confrontational, over time the two developed a friendship and it led to McCorvey becoming a born again Christian.
On August 8, 1995, McCorvey was baptized by Benham in a swimming pool in a backyard in Houston, Texas.
The baptism was broadcast on national television. From then on, McCorvey pledged to overturn the court case that bore her alias.
In 1998, McCorvey put out a new book, Won By Love. This book was a reversal from her earlier book about the Roe v Wade case.
This new book delved into her horrifying realization that because of her case, millions of babies were being murdered. She recounts how the Pro-Choice movement used her as symbol but in the book she says she came to a realization that she was, “being crushed by the weight of so much death, and so many ill-considered “choices.”
In 2013, McCorvey stated that, “I think it’s safe to say that the entire abortion industry is based on a lie … I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.”