Plaintiff of Roe v. Wade says his anti-abortion change was acted out in new documentary – The Denver Post
WASHINGTON — Norma McCorvey loved the limelight. Better known as “Jane Roe,” her story was central to the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. At first, she was an abortion rights advocate, but, in a twist, she became a born-again Christian in 1995 and switched sides.
Now, three years after her death from heart failure at 69, she is making headlines again. In a documentary aired Friday, McCorvey says she was paid to speak out against abortion.
“This is my deathbed confession,” she laughs as she breathes on oxygen while filming at a nursing home where she lived in Katy, Texas.
“I took their money and they put me in front of the cameras and told me what to say,” she says in “AKA Jane Roe,” which airs Friday on FX.
When asked if it was an “all one act,” she replies, “Yeah.”
“I did well too. I’m a good actress. Of course I don’t act now,” she says in the documentary, which was filmed in 2016 and 2017.
As for her feelings on abortion, McCorvey says, “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, fine. You know, it’s not the skin of my ass. You know that’s why they call it choice. It’s up to you.”
Filmmaker Nick Sweeney said the documentary condensed hundreds of hours of film he shot in the last year of McCorvey’s life and he hoped it would give him the chance to tell his own complex story. .
McCorvey’s true feelings about abortion have always been nuanced, said Joshua Prager, who spent eight years working on a book about McCorvey due out next year. In a phone interview, he said McCorvey made a living giving speeches and writing books on both sides of the abortion debate, and she was dragged along by both sides. She had conflicting feelings about each, he said, but was consistent throughout her life in one thing: supporting first-trimester abortion.
Prager, who hasn’t seen the new documentary, said he thinks if the leaders of the abortion rights movement had embraced McCorvey, “I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that she would have changed sides.”
But, he said, she desperately needed acceptance and “loved being on camera”.
“I like the attention,” she admitted in the new documentary.
If the film confirms anything, it’s that McCorvey was complicated. She grew up poor and was sexually abused by a relative. She was a lesbian. At 22, she was unemployed and living in Texas when she became pregnant with her third child.
McCorvey wanted an abortion, but it was illegal in Texas and most states. This led to her becoming the anonymous plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. She gave birth to her third child, whom she offered for adoption, before the Supreme Court ruled on her case.
McCorvey has had other bombshell moments before. At first she said that the pregnancy she wanted to end was the result of rape. Later she said no.
This admission, and the fact that McCorvey was uneducated and not, as she puts it, “a wise, calm, perfect white-gloved woman,” meant that the abortion rights movement held her to distance. This, she says, “really set me on fire.”
But if one side of the abortion debate hasn’t embraced it, the other has. Two leaders of the anti-abortion movement, Flip Benham and Robert Schenck, are interviewed in the documentary.
Schenck, an evangelical minister who has since broken with the religious right and now supports Roe v. Wade, confirms that McCorvey was coached on what to say and paid.
“Money was a constant source of tension. Norma complained that she didn’t have enough money. Her complaints were met with checks,” says Schenck, adding, “There was some concern that if Norma wasn’t paid enough she would go back to the other side.
He also expresses his own doubts, acknowledging that he wondered at McCorvey: “Is she playing us?”
“What I didn’t have the courage to say was, ‘Because I know very well that we’re playing it.’ What we did with Norma was highly unethical. The template is in place,” he says.
McCorvey, for his part, says both sides used the other.
As the star of “AKA Jane Roe,” she is wry, sometimes rude, and sometimes emotional. On election night in 2016, viewers see her hoping that Hillary Clinton will win.
“I’d like to know how many abortions Donald Trump is responsible for. I’m sure he’s lost count,” she said. “You know, if he can count that high.”
McCorvey didn’t live to see Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees join the High Court, moving him to the right and worrying abortion-rights supporters that the court could ultimately overthrow Roe. Earlier this year, judges heard arguments in a case involving an abortion that could reveal just how willing they are to have it. A decision is expected in early summer.
Prager, her biographer, says McCorvey told her she thought Trump would eventually succeed and Roe would be overthrown.
She offers a different assessment in the film: “No, Roe isn’t going anywhere,” she says. “No. It won’t be altered. They can try but it’s not happening, baby.