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.