A person’s a person, no matter how famous: The use and abuse of Norma McCorvey

What do we really know about Norma McCorvey? A new documentary premiering Friday about the pro-life celebrity includes some bombshells from what she called her “deathbed confession”: that her pro-life convictions and possibly even her conversion to Christianity were all an act, performed for money.

“I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say,” Ms. McCorvey said in previews of “AKA Jane Roe.”

Ms. McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, was initially a pro-choice activist, but after her baptism in 1995, she became a celebrity for the pro-life cause. According to the documentary, she received over $400,000 in “benevolent gifts” from various pro-life organizations. Does her history prove that she only pretended to be pro-life because of the money and fame it brought? Or does it prove that she was only pretending to be pro-choice because that, too, brought her attention and cash?

I suspect the answer is: both, or neither.

“It was all an act. I did it well, too. I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now,” Ms. McCorvey said in the documentary, apparently without irony.

Ms. McCorvey is the classic unreliable narrator, and those who have followed her story are not surprised that this new narrative is emerging three years after her death. She said she was pro-life, but she supported first-trimester abortions; she said she renounced her L.G.B.T. lifestyle but lived with a female companion for decades. She gave varying accounts of how she came to be pregnant with the baby whose abortion she tried and failed to procure, claiming at various times that she was raped, then that she had lied about being raped. She wrote a book called Won By Love, but she was often harsh and aggressive toward her own supporters. Her behavior was erratic, her speech often rambling.

The Catholic author and journalist Dawn Eden Goldstein, who says she met Ms. McCorvey in 2007 at a “40 Days for Life” dinner, recently shared a note she sent to their mutual booking agent, urging him to find her a “minder” who could protect her from fans who plied her with drinks even after she told them she was an alcoholic.

And she was used, consistently, tragically, all her life. She was abused, perhaps raped, uprooted, deceived and manipulated, as well as wined, dined, feted and mythologized by both sides. The fact that she became immortalized by the anonymous name “Jane Roe” is tragically apt. Here is someone who was never allowed to be …Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image: Norma McCorvey in front of the Supreme Court in 1989

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9 thoughts on “A person’s a person, no matter how famous: The use and abuse of Norma McCorvey”

  1. I read your work and I wonder how do you not get hit in the head with your own words? Here’s something….the various people you clearly have hatred for…they are also people, and you don’t know them. Yet here you are, again, “using them” to whip up your sarcasm/perpetual anger machine. Is there some reason you have absolute hatred for Fr Pavone? Is he not worthy of your Christian charity? Does he need to come grovel before you to receive forgiveness? Must you drag out his name every time you feel like beating up the prolife movement and labeling the prolife movement with your absurd caricatures? Oh yes, those terrible prolife people who USED and ABUSED another human being….by stating that in their actual real life knowledge (which you don’t have) the woman was prolife. Oh, yeah, and you’re not USING her are you? Not to feed your little agenda and write your articles attacking other people. No. Maybe you can add something about Trump at the end to make it extra convincing.

    1. Asking Simcha why she isn’t more charitable and then launching off your uncharitable comment seems a bit hypocritical.

      I cannot see what’s wrong what’s wrong with bringing up Fr. Pavone’s actions here. Simcha doesn’t appear to be attacking him—she’s pointing out there is irony, or at least a lack of awareness, in Pavone rushing to ‘prove’ McGorvey’s pro-life boba fides after he’s already shown that he is willing to use almost anyone, even a dead baby, to ‘support’ the pro-life movement. It’s not at all fair to assume that Simcha is coming from a place of hate here. If someone is comfortable displaying an aborted baby’s body for propaganda, I think it’s reasonable to question if they perhaps aren’t seeing the ‘person’ behind an abortion debate.

      To absolve the pro-life movement of
      ‘using’ McCorvey is to be completely ignorant of power dynamics. She was abused. She had been through trauma. She was poor. Organizations on either side of the abortion divide knew this, and both certainly took advantage of it. If she’s desperate, $400K is enough to give a pro-life groups control over a woman’s narrative.

      1. Thats kind of the point, Katie. Simcha writes frequently about someway or another that prolifers or some “type” of Catholic are very stupid, wrong, mean etc. and in this case “using, abusing” yet here you are defending her. Yet, I bet you wouldn’t defend those “mean” prolifers or those “horrible“ Catholics. Why is that Katie? If there’s no problem with Simcha haranguing Fr Pavone,…again,… why is there a problem with me haranguing Simcha? Why is it fine for her to do , but uncharitable for me to do, enough for you to want to defend her? Double standard?

        And why am I supposed to believe that Norma was “abused” by the prolife movement based on the charges that she received “gifts” and was a very vulnerable lady as you say…why, if the characterization provided is correct, why aren’t you a little irritated with her for lying, being manipulative and taking advantage of Fr Pavone? I’ll tell you why I think, Katie, because in moral relativism land only certain people qualify as victims…others are always the “monster abusers”. But here’s the deal, Norma, however she was treated in life, is still responsible for her own choices. And Fr. Pavone, however imperfect he is as a human being, is still responsible for his, as we all are.

        And I’m sure after getting all worked up about the “hypocrisy” in the prolife movement (which is a huge, global movement, of loosely affiliated people with no central organizing) you’ll get around to exposing all of the hypocrisy in all of the groups and people you know. Right. Or no? Maybe it’ll just kinda stay here with those “terrible” prolifers, who have such power ( I’m trying not to laugh, seriously) yeah…so powerful. So “abusive“, I mean the gall, to give the lady gifts…GIFTS I tell you. It’s horrible.

        1. Regarding McCorvey, the most obvious response is that substantial sums of money ($400K) ARE powerful, and to shrug off that much money as merely a well-meaning ‘gift’ in such a politically and culturally-charged situation is naive. Secondly, of course McCorvey made choices—but a woman who makes choices can still be a victim in some ways (to me, that’s a bedrock element of a legitimate pro-life argument. Otherwise the ‘pro-life’ movement can’t claim to care about women and mothers).

          As to criticism, you are perfectly entitled to criticize Simcha, but other random people in her comments sections are also entitled to criticize you. Calling her ‘hateful’ because you’re offended by her criticism of Pavone is unwarranted—‘hate’ is a heavy thing to accuse her of, given that she is vocally Catholic and pro-life. Since Pavone has displayed an aborted baby in a way that undermines human dignity, I feel pretty good about Simcha criticizing him for that action, and supporting her in doing so.

          1. Ok so let’s figure out where that money came from. You got answers? The articles referenced don’t say, but it does imply there were many gifts over many years. And I notice you still think that Norma is victimized. Even if she lied? Manipulated? Used people to get what she wanted?
            What’s funny is if she wasn’t fairly compensated for her time etc, the prolife movement would then be accused of “not really caring about women” and “using” them. Can’t win.

            And I guess I’ll just take that as a yes on the double standards. Apparently, some people deserve to be fed and cuddled like lap dogs, others kicked. Why? …we don’t know, we just do what we feel. Moral relativism.

  2. I read this over at America first and I had not noticed the author’s name by the end of it I knew it had to be you. 🙂
    Good job, another solid piece of writing and evangelism. Thank you.

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