By Stephen Wissink
I’ll give her this much credit. Over the years, Norma McCorvey has become quite polished in her role as the repentant sinner who was saved by Jesus, looks back in horror at her past, and only wants to save the world from committing genocide against millions of unborn children.
In this recent performance, she even sticks to the facts every once in a while.
Decades ago, Norma was known only as “Jane Roe,” the woman whose desire to terminate her third pregnancy caused Supreme Court to make abortion a constitutional right for women.
With the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade upon us, I decided to check in on Norma’s latest attempts at fame and fortune.
On YouTube, I found an exhausting three-part series titled “Reversing Roe – The Norma McCorvey Story,” where she tells the tale of being manipulated by two ambitious lawyers who fed her pizza, got her drunk and preyed on her ignorance.
“They started pounding all this talk, ‘Don’t you think a woman should have the right to control their own body,’” she tells the camera. “Yes I said. They never said anything about ‘It’s really a baby, Norma. You’re going to be killing your own baby.’
“I didn’t have a clue. I was ignorant. I mean I was dumb. It went right over my head.”
Perhaps the scene was meant to create sympathy for Norma, a suicidal 9th grade dropout who was abused by her parents, worked part time at the circus, and spent many of her days either drunk or stoned on pot, LSD and mescaline.
But finding any feelings of compassion for Norma was tough to do, given that just a few scenes earlier, Norma said her hope was the case would be decided soon so she could terminate the pregnancy. “I didn’t want it in my body. I wanted to kill it. I wanted an abortion.”
That, plus her history of blatantly lying, has left me a little jaded. For example, Norma initially insisted she got pregnant as a result of a rape. Then the story became that she was gang raped.
When she finally admitted the truth, that she got pregnant during a casual fling, she claimed she was forced to lie by her attorneys so the courts would accept her case. That too, was a lie. Rape was never mentioned in any of the court pleadings nor was it a requirement of the courts.
With Norma, it’s always “just drama,” one of her longtime friends and neighbor, Suzanne Ashworth, told the magazine Vanity Fair for an article in this month’s issue. “A story would be told one way, and three days later, it would be different.”
Like many, I was surprised back in 1995 when Norma joined the anti-choice crusaders. Until then, she was pro-choice. She even wrote a book and worked at an abortion clinic. But the leadership of the pro-choice movement was embarrassed by her rough edges, her flaring temper and her poor speaking habits. They even banned her from appearing at a national rally celebrating the anniversary of the Roe decision and that left Norma feeling like an outsider.
Then, Operation Rescue moved into the building next to the abortion clinic where Norma worked. She shared smoke breaks with its charismatic leader, Flip Benham, gave church a try and decided that abortion was tantamount to murder.
The religious right loved her. As one evangelical put it, the poster child for abortion had jumped off the poster. She wrote another book (she got a nice advance for this one), started a church, (with a nice salary) and was asked to speak before anti-choice groups across the country (for a fee).
She was famous. She was making money.
Of course, there were a few rough edges. About two weeks after her conversion, Norma gave an in-depth interview to Newsweek magazine and said, “I haven’t changed sides all the way.”
She still supported a woman’s right to choose during the first three months of pregnancy, she said. She also spoke openly of her lesbian partner, whom she was with for 35 years, and mocked some of the evangelicals because it was always “Lord Jesus Christ this, Lord Jesus Christ that.”
“You aren’t going to be seeing Norma for a while,” Benham announced shortly thereafter on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. “We’re going to intensively disciple her.”
It apparently worked. Norma today is opposed to abortion in any circumstance – and she renewed the religious right ‘s faith in her by cutting a disturbing campaign commercial that showed pictures of discarded fetuses and urged people to vote against Obama because “he murders children.”
On the YouTube videos, she comes across as polished, sincere and articulate. Unlike her days with the pro-choice movement, she dresses well, is immaculatley groomed and modulates her voice to convey exactly what she’s trying to say. She speaks lovingly of how a 7-year-old girl would come to the abortion clinic where she worked and beg her to come to church. “I would love to have you. Please,” the little girl implores, convincing Norma to give it a try. She is shown singing Amazing Grace during service.
She talks of how she regrets being “Jane Roe.”
She’s not the only one. One of her attorneys, Sarah Weddington once said she too wishes she could have found someone else who hadn’t turned out to be an embarrassment to the people who fought a long and difficult fight on her behalf.
“All Jane Roe did was sign a one-page document,” Weddington told reporters when Norma bolted for the anti-choice movement. “She was pregnant. She didn’t want to be. That was her total involvement in the case.”
There is a huge amount of material to be found on Norma. But there are two final things I’ll leave you with.
The first involves money. Norma likes it and demands it. To cut the controversial campaign commercial, Norma charged $1,000. When Vanity Fair asked for an interview, Norma refused unless she was paid. I was glad to hear the magazine refused.
“McCorvey has long been less pro-choice or pro-life than pro-Norma,” the magazine’s reporter, Joshua Prager wrote in his story.
The other involves her partner, Connie, the woman for whom Norma once said, “I might walk away from Jesus before I walk away from Connie.”
The couple met when Norma tried to shoplift some items at the store where Connie worked.
Rather than prosecute her, Connie fell in love with her and took her into her home. For 35 years, they were together, even when Norma followed her “discipling” and declared the two no longer slept together because homosexuality was a sin.
A few years ago, Connie had a stroke and suffers from dementia. When the going got tough, Norma walked away, Connie lost her house, and now lives with a niece and relies on food stamps.
“Norma has never been able to do the right thing,” her first child, Melissa told Vanity Fair. “Never.”
That’s harsh. And for Norma, well deserved.