July-August 2020 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Norma McCorvey, who served as the plaintiff in the famous 1973 abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade and who later renounced pro-choice views and embraced conservative Christianity, gave a death-bed confession that her espousal of anti-abortion views was all an act, a new documentary reveals.

McCorvey, who died in 2017, is the subject of the film “AKA Jane Roe.” In the final minutes of the documentary, McCorvey asserts that Religious Right organizations paid her to mouth anti-abortion views.

“This is my deathbed confession,” a clearly ailing McCorvey says on film.

Asked if the Religious Right had used her, McCorvey replied, “Of course. I was the Big Fish.”

McCorvey was then asked whether she used anti-abortion groups as well. She responded, “Well, I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money, and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say.”

McCorvey was poor and homeless when she sought an abortion in Texas in the early 1970s. Her case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld legal abortion as a constitutional right.

But McCorvey stunned abortion-rights activists in 1995, when she     an­nounced she had become a born-again Christian who no longer sup­­­ported abortion rights. McCorvey was reportedly brought to that fundamentalist faith by the Rev. Flip Benham and the Rev. Rob Schenck, both prominent leaders in the anti-abortion movement.

In the documentary, McCorvey asserted that anti-abortion activists knew her conversion was not sincere. It has also come to light that Benham’s group paid her nearly half a million dollars over the years to take public stands against abortion.

Schenck, who has since adopted more moderate political positions and now says he doesn’t support overturning Roe, was interviewed for the documentary and said, “I knew what we were doing, and there were times I was sure she knew, and I wondered, ‘Is she playing us?’ What I didn’t have the guts to say was, ‘Because I know damn well we’re playing her.’”

Although anti-abortion groups continue to assert that McCorvey’s opposition to legal abortion was genuine, McCorvey herself left little doubt about where she stood. Asked to explain her real views on legal abortion by the documentary’s makers, McCorvey was blunt: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion – fine. That’s no skin off my ass. You know, that’s why they call it ‘choice.’ It’s your choice.”