Monica Doumit: tragic tale of Jane Roe

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We should pray for a woman who had a tough life

“I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say … I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”

So went the bombshell “deathbed confession” of Norma McCorvey, the real-life Jane Roe whose US Supreme Court case had the effect of legalising abortion across the United States.

Norma McCorvey gave up her three children for adoption. PHOTO: CNS

For those who don’t know McCorvey’s story, it is both complex and tragic. Her history includes a broken home, a violent mother, being made a ward of the state at age 11, sexual abuse by a family member, drug and alcohol addiction, a teenage marriage to an abusive husband (despite identifying as a lesbian), and giving birth to her first child at age 18.

McCorvey ended up adopting her first child out to her mother, and gave her second child up for adoption as well.

When she fell pregnant with her third child, she was referred to lawyers who had been looking for pregnant women who wanted an abortion so they could begin a legal challenge to abortion restrictions in the United States.

The case took three years to decide, and so McCorvey ended up giving birth to her third child, who was also given up for adoption.

But she remained the plaintiff in the now infamous Roe v Wade case that has ushered in more than 60 million abortions since it was decided in 1973. McCorvey then famously converted to Christianity, quit her job at an abortion clinic and became a pro-life advocate until her death in 2017.

Or so we thought.

A documentary screened last week in the US called this into question, with McCorvey reportedly saying that it was all an act. “I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say,” she says on film.  “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”

Norma was used by both sides of the abortion fight

Pro-life advocates in the US have been quick to downplay the documentary’s importance, pointing instead to decades of pro-life advocacy and personal friendships that they say are way more indicative of her views than a heavily-edited documentary created by a producer whose film projects to date have been about sex robots and transgender kids.

I don’t know the truth.  The documentary is not yet available in Australia, and so it’s hard to judge from this distance.

But what seems to be clear is that Norma McCorvey was used and abused by others for most of her life, and continues to be used, even after her death.

She was abused as a child by a family member who was supposed to care for her.
She was abused by her mother and her husband and heaven knows who else.
She was used by abortion advocates who went looking for a plaintiff and a poster girl to champion their cause, thrusting a woman with a history of significant trauma into the middle of a court case (and eventually, into the spotlight) with reckless disregard for the long-term effects on her wellbeing.

All in the name of her “rights” and “empowerment.”

And yes, she also appears to have been used by pro-life advocates who wanted to instrumentalise her conversion as a win for the pro-life movement.

40 Days for Life
Participants at 40 Days for Life in Sydney in 2015. Under exclusion zone laws in several Australian states praying or offering assistance to women within exclusion zones around abortion facilities is now illegal.

That pro-abortion activists used McCorvey is hardly surprising. After all, it is a movement and a multi-billion dollar industry built on the commodification of human life and the discarding of it when it becomes inconvenient.

It is their business model. This latest documentary gives them another opportunity to use her, because it allows them to use her final days to paint everyone in the pro-life movement as nothing more than actors and hypocrites.

St John Paul II said that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s use. The best way we have to defeat a culture of death, and to provide a real alternative to those who would use people like McCorvey for their own purposes then, is authentic love.

Any failure by any of us in showing this type of love is a counter-witness to the pro-life message and our calling as Catholics.

I’m not sure what to make of this “death-bed confession,” but it would be wrong to get too caught up in whether Norma McCorvey died as a pro-life advocate or not.

The best thing we can do in response is to pray for the repose of her soul, and recommit ourselves to treating every human person with the dignity they deserve.

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