The pro-life movement received a devastating blow this week as it has become known that Norma McCorvey, who was “Jane Roe” in the infamous Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, was paid to pretend she was pro-life. McCorvey has been touted as a pro-life advocate who purportedly converted to the pro-life movement after being wrongfully misused by pro-choice advocates seeking to legalize abortion in 1973. The miserable reality is that McCorvey seems to have been equally misused by the pro-life movement, and her true views, after 20 years of pro-life advocacy, are just being made known. She is quoted as saying, “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice." The quote is from an FX documentary (“AKA Jane Roe”) filmed in 2017 in the months before McCorvey’s passing. It was aired on Friday.
It should be noted that there has been backlash from those within the pro-life community who knew McCorvey. One example is Fr. Frank Pavone, who Tweeted, “I was her spiritual guide for 22 years, received her into the #Catholic Church, kept regular contact, spoke with her the day she died, and conducted her funeral.” Abby Johnson stated McCorvey had become mentally unstable in the months before her death, and others are claiming that the FX documentary is just another example of how McCorvey was misused for a political agenda. We may never know.
As a pro-life advocate, I’ve been making pro-life art and signage for a little over a year now. One of my signs states “Roe’s baby was never aborted, she was adopted and loved.” This is still true. What may not be true are captions accompanying my social media posts featuring McCorvey quotes such as, “Roe was the biggest mistake of my life.” It seems that these sorts of McCorvey quotes, so cherished amongst pro-lifers, were paid statements composed by pro-life advocates.
Frankly, I’m not just disappointed with the people within the pro-life movement who apparently fabricated a McCorvey story for the sake of furthering the movement, I’m also disappointed with the fact that lower income, social outcasts (which seems to be McCorvey’s background) can’t seem to find a home in middle class, privileged circles. Many “McCorveys” seek resources and belonging (don’t we all?) yet they are left with loneliness.
McCorvey was not received well within the pro-choice realm in the 70’s. It appears she was looked down upon, and she just simply did not fit in. She had too much baggage - she was too different…she wasn’t a Karen. This is just the type of individual who is easily swept up into Christianity, which is supposed to be a safe haven for those from all walks of life. Who doesn’t shudder at the possibility of a Creator who knows and loves you in your otherness? It’s beautiful…
However, we as a broader Christian community fail when it comes to deepening relationships with those who aren’t quite “normal.” Why? Because it takes effort. And it’s awkward!
Befriending those who are different from us requires us to forgo a fun Saturday evening with friends to instead spend time with somebody whose clothes and hair would not fit in well in suburbia and who might have addiction, abuse, or sex work in their family of origin. They might even be *gasp* gender non-conforming or queer-identified (McCorvey identified as a lesbian for a good portion of her life). Breaking out of our cultural bubbles is uncomfortable on many levels, and most of us cling to comfort as a respite for our own insecurities. Yet reaching out to those who are different from us could be the key to ending abortion.
There are many other McCorveys out there who are either preyed on by the abortion industry, which flourishes in lower income neighborhoods, or who are overlooked by pro-lifers with a narrowminded focus on overturning Roe v. Wade. Women with unplanned pregnancies are often in tough situations, and most of the people in their social network normalize and encourage abortion. We simply must do better as both a pro-life movement and as a Church. This would look like attending churches in lower income neighborhoods and learning about the other parishioners. It would look like inviting co-workers and classmates from different cultural backgrounds out to lunch. It would look like volunteering for ministries who spend time with sex workers and addicts. It would look like diversity in our friendships.
As a clinical psychologist, I’ve worked with various women over the years navigating the traumas of their abortions. I once knew a college student who had no family support or finances. She sought help from her college advisor when she found out about the pregnancy, and the advisor was unable to point her to any school resources. The student was told there was nothing for her, which led to the conclusion she had one option: termination. After hearing this, I contacted the pro-life student group at the college, but they only confirmed what the advisor had told the pregnant student the year before…there is nothing they could do. They did not have the resources for pregnant students, such as organizing childcare or providing rides to local pregnancy centers, and so most of their efforts were put toward fundraising for rides to the annual March for Life D.C. trip.
My heart sank. Just as it did this evening as I saw the preview for the new FX documentary, and I heard Norma McCorvey’s end of life confessions.
Ultimately, it’s unacceptable how McCorvey has been treated by those on both sides of the culture war. McCorvey was failed by both “us” and “them.” I’m deeply saddened that Norma McCorvey is no longer with us…if she was here, I hope we would embrace her and beg her forgiveness for misusing her story. I hope we could somehow befriend her.