Jane Roe is Dead
by Nancy Vande Hey
“Jane Roe is dead and Norma McCorvey is alive in Christ,” proclaimed a booming voice to an applauding crowd.
Last Saturday about 200 college students and community members heard Norma McCorvey’s conversion story. Once known as “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case which legalized abortion in the entire United States, McCorvey now prefers “Miss Norma.”
“I am finally learning how to become a woman,” she says.
McCorvey spoke at a pro-life conference at St. Norbert College sponsored by Wisconsin Collegians for Life (WCL), a statewide network of campus pro-life groups. Pro-Life Wisconsin, a statewide educational and legislative pro-life group, co-sponsored McCorvey’s trip to Wisconsin and hosted her in Janesville on Monday evening. A third group, Collegians Activated to Liberate Life, co-sponsored the trip.
Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue National, accompanied McCorvey and shared the microphone with her Saturday night.
It was Benham who introduced McCorvey Saturday evening by saying Jane Roe is dead but McCorvey is now truly alive. Benham was instrumental in McCorvey conversion from being an abortion clinic worker to pro-life activist.
McCorvey’s story begins in 1970 in Dallas, Texas. She was pregnant for the third time and having placed her first two daughters in adoptive homes, she wanted to have an abortion.
She heard of an illegal abortionist, but couldn’t locate him. A lawyer referred her to Sara Weddington and Linda Coffey, two young lawyers who wanted to challenge the Texas law that outlawed abortion.
“They wanted to change a law. I wanted to have an abortion,” she says. She signed a document making her Jane Roe in a class action suit.
McCorvey never had an abortion. She placed her third daughter into an adoptive family and moved on with her life. Meanwhile, the case proceeded to the Supreme Court and on January 22, 1973 it ruled that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
By that point, McCorvey was spending her life as an alcoholic and drug addict. “For fourteen years I was drunk, stoned and depressed,” she says. “I was always very sad.”
From December to February, McCorvey became particularly depressed. “I was like a bear going into hibernation. I would drink, cry, try to kill myself. Then I would get stoned, drink and try again,” she says.
Even while she professed to be pro-abortion, McCorvey says she was very ashamed of what she had done. “It’s nothing to be proud of when you’re only known for (a ruling that permits) killing babies,” she says.
During those years, McCorvey says she never felt anyone cared for her. The pro-abortion did not respect her for herself, but just for what she stood for. McCorvey gave as example an episode where she was invited to a large National Organization for Women banquet to be introduced.
“They introduced me while I was out of the room. That’s how embarrassed they were of this girl from the wrong side of the tracks,” McCorvey says.
Benham says he believes the pro-abortion people saw Jane Roe as so powerful that they started to actually believe in her as a person. “They couldn’t stand Norma McCorvey but they loved Jane Roe,” he says.
He says unlike them, the pro-lifers in McCorvey’s life truly love her as a child of God.
Benham first spoke to McCorvey at bookstore. She was signing copies of her book, “I am Roe,” and Benham shouted from a distance: “Norma McCorvey --- your lie ushered in the wholesale slaughter of 35 million baby boys and girls. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
He says as soon as the words left his mouth he regretted them because he knew they had hurt her.
McCorvey agrees that pierced her. “I felt about the size of a grain of sand because I knew what he said was true,” she says.
About four years later, in 1991, Benham finally had a chance to apologize to McCorvey for the comment. Operation Rescue moved into the suite next door to the abortion clinic where McCorvey was employed.
McCorvey says when she saw Benham pull into the parking lot in a Ryder truck, she was mad. “Flip and I hadn’t gotten along too well at that point,” she says with a smile. “The only thing we had in common was we both knew where all the abortion clinics were.”
At the first opportunity, Benham sat down outside their offices and apologized to McCorvey. “That won my heart,” she says and she went into her office and cried.
McCorvey says she wanted to learn more about the curious pro-lifers next door. She says no matter how much she screamed and hurled foul language their way, they smiled at her and were always nice. “I thought that was disgusting,” she says.
Inside, she says she couldn’t help but admire the joyful attitude the pro-lifers owned. She grew more ashamed of her abortion activities and even moved her office to a part of the suite farther away from the pro-lifers office.
“I think I was always pro-life but didn’t know how to go about doing it,” McCorvey says.
A little seven-year-old girl, Emily Mackey, helped wear out McCorvey’s resistance to the pro-lifers. Every day the girl invited McCorvey to attend church with the Mackey family. “How can you say no to a little girl,” McCorvey says.
On July 22, 1995, McCorvey went to Hillcrest Church, a nondenominational Christian church, and turned her life over to Christ. About two weeks later she was baptized by Benham, who is a pastor.
In an ironic twist of fate, Emily was almost aborted when her mother, Ronda Mackey, discovered she was pregnant. Although her parents and future parents-in-law advised her to abort, Ronda refused. If she had exercised that choice under the freedom given by the Roe vs. Wade decision, McCorvey’s life story could be very different.
Since her conversion, McCorvey has begun a long journey of healing, she says. Her pastor, Benham and other pro-life friends are supporting her every step of the way.
“They’ve shown me what it’s like to be a human being,” McCorvey says. She has renounced openly her alcoholism, drug addiction and lesbianism of the past and is determined to build a new life as a Christian.
McCorvey is reunited with her oldest daughter and her two granddaughters. She works full-time in the Operation Rescue office, still located next door to the abortion clinic where she was marketing director.
She and Benham have done some speaking, but only to relatively small groups. Some people criticize Benham for using her as the pro-abortion side did for many years. “The ones who scream at us the most are the ones who were the worst offenders,” Benham says.
As McCorvey progresses in her healing, she may feel more comfortable sharing her story with larger audiences, she says. She is releasing a book in October about her conversion and is the subject of a video, “Reversing Roe,” produced by Donehey & Associates.
“I am learning more about the Lord every day,” she says. And although this last anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision made her sad, she did not have any suicidal thoughts. “I am getting stronger each year,” she says.