Birthday: September 22, 1947
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Norma Leah Nelson McCorvey, Jane Roe, Norma Leah Nelson
Born Country: United States
Born in: Simmesport, Louisiana, United States
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Elwood McCorvey (m. 1963–1965)
father: Olin Nelson
mother: Mary Sandefur Nelson
Partner: Connie Gonzales (1970–1993)
Died on: February 18, 2017
place of death: Katy, Texas, United States
Cause of Death: Heart Failure
U.S. State: Louisiana
Norma McCorvey was the lead plaintiff in the historical class-action lawsuit ‘Roe v. Wade.’ Until the judgment in 1973, she went by the alias “Jane Roe.” The ruling eased abortion laws and made it a little more favourable for women seeking abortions. She became the champion of the pro-abortion movement, women’s rights, and feminism and enjoyed near-celebrity status. She also worked in an abortion clinic for a long time. However, after befriending evangelist Philip “Flip” Benham, she changed her opinion about abortion. She started working with him and joined the anti-abortion campaign. She staged public protests and was also arrested by the police. She had a troubled childhood, which transitioned into a complicated adulthood, compelling her to lead the life of a drifter.
Troubled Childhood & Early Life
McCorvey was born on September 22, 1947, in Simmesport, a town in Avoyelles Parish in the state of Louisiana, U.S.A.
Her father, Olin, was enlisted in the army and also worked as a TV mechanic. Her mother, Mary, worked as a waitress. She had a brother named James.
She grew up in her family home in Lettsworth in Pointe Coupee Parish, also in Louisiana.
She attended a Catholic boarding school. However, her childhood was troubled.
At the age of 10, she stole the cash register from a gas station and fled to Oklahoma City, along with a girlfriend. There, she conned a hotel employee into letting her rent a room. She was caught kissing her friend and was reported to the authorities. She was declared a ward of the state and sent to a reform school for a short period.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, she attended the ‘State School for Girls’ in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas, intermittently. She later described this period as one she had enjoyed the most. Whenever she returned, she deliberately got into trouble, so that she was sent back.
By then, her father had abandoned the family and divorced her mother, who was a violent alcoholic.
After her release, she stayed with her mother’s cousin, whom she accused of sexually abusing her every night for at least 21 days. However, when McCorvey’s mother probed, her cousin claimed that McCorvey was lying.
When she was 16 years old, she started working at a restaurant. There, she met Woody McCorvey. Within 6 weeks, they tied the knot. Woody was a 24-year-old sheet-metal worker and was divorced twice.
The newlywed couple moved to El. Monte, California.
She later confessed that when she had revealed to Woody that she was pregnant with his baby, he had refused to believe it. He had earlier assumed that he was infertile, as both his previous wives never got pregnant. He thus badmouthed her and physically abused her after getting to know about her pregnancy.
She returned to her mother’s residence and worked in a bar until May 25, 1965, the day she gave birth to her daughter, Melissa (though McCorvey called her Cheryl). Immediately after this, she took to substance abuse and exhibited erratic behavior. She traveled over a weekend, leaving the child behind. On her return, her mother replaced the baby with a doll.
Her mother reported to the authorities that McCorvey had abandoned the baby. She then influenced the police to have McCorvey evicted from the house. Her mother did not let her visit her daughter for nearly 3 months. Later, she allowed McCorvey to return. McCorvey then allowed her mother to adopt her daughter. Nevetheless, she later accused her mother of tricking her into signing the custody documents citing them as insurance papers. McCorvey was again compelled to leave.
By then, she had separated from Woody. Sometime around 1966, she became pregnant for the second time. She later gave up the child for adoption.
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Roe vs. Wade
In 1969, at the age of 21, McCorvey became pregnant for the third time. However, this time, she chose to abort by claiming that she had been gang-raped by a few black men. On this pretext, she could obtain permission from the legal authorities of the state of Texas to get an abortion.
As the police investigation could not corroborate her claim, her plan failed. Later, McCorvey confessed that she had faked the situation upon the ill advice of her well-wishers.
Her efforts to illegally abort her child also failed because the clinic she was referred to had been locked down by the government.
She was advised to meet two attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were in search of a plaintiff who was pregnant and in need of an abortion. In 1970, the attorneys filed a lawsuit in the ‘United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas’ on her behalf, to mitigate the strictness of abortion laws. However, she was referred to by the pseudonym “Jane Roe.”
The case finally concluded after it reached the ‘Supreme Court of the United States.’ The judgment was announced on January 22, 1973.
The decision was in favor of Roe. It paved the way for women to exercise the right to choose abortion (under the purview of the reformed law).
During the case, she gave birth to her child. However, she later gave it up for adoption.
Immediately after the judgment, she announced that she was “Jane Roe.” Later, she also revealed that her situation has been taken advantage of by the two young and ambitious advocates.
Family, Personal Life, & Death
In 1970, she met a woman named Connie Gonzales. They got into a relationship that lasted until 1993.
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She was baptized on August 8, 1995, after she got acquainted with Flip Benham, an evangelist and the national director of ‘Operation Rescue’ (now known as ‘Operation Save America’).
In her 1994 autobiography, ‘I am Roe,’ she spoke vividly about her same-sex relationship with Gonzales.
On August 10, 1995, she quit her job with an abortion clinic. She became a champion of the anti-abortion movement of ‘Operation Rescue,’ a fundamentally Christian organization working against abortion, homosexuality, and Islam.
Three years later, she embraced Catholicism. She announced that she was not a lesbian anymore.
She succumbed to heart failure on February 18, 2017, at the age of 69.
After her baptism, she became a staunch supporter of the anti-abortion movement. She started working with ‘Operation Rescue’ as a computer operator in 1997.
Her second book, ‘Won by Love,’ was released in 1998. She book claimed that she had reversed her stand on abortion and gone from being a pro-abortion activist to an anti-abortionist.
She appealed to the ‘Supreme Court’ to overturn the ruling of ‘Roe v. Wade’ in 2004, but the case was dismissed in 2005.
She extended her support to Ron Paul, a ‘Republican’ presidential candidate, on January 22, 2008. She did so under the impression that he had sided with her on her fight to overturn the ‘Roe v. Wade’ judgment.
She even protested before President Barack Obama’s address to the students of the ‘University of Notre Dame.’ She was apprehended on May 26, 2009, for her protest during Al Franken’s opening statement on the first day of the United States hearings for the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.