Imagine it’s the early 1970’s. You are in a town in near Dallas, Texas. You’re a young woman. Your first born is crying and is in your mothers arms while you put on the coffee. You are not married, your mother has adopted your first baby born to a one night stand, and you need to tell her something very hard. You’re pregnant-again. That is how the story of Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in Roe versus Wade begins. It is a journey of perhaps the most personal human story that has not been told.
There are many fallacies and even more misconceptions on what Norma McCorvey has gone through, who she was used by, and the truth behind a Supreme Court Decision that is a key battle in the culture war. Norma McCorvey – was in an “unbearable situation” at home. Abortion was illegal, and she already had a baby she couldn’t handle herself. So she pursued information about an illegal abortion clinic which was in the back of at a dentist office, on the other side of town. She saved enough money to have the abortion and boards a bus to the dentist office with mixed feelings. As she gets off she finds the “clinic” was raided the night before and law enforcement had closed it down. You can see her sitting in the doorway slumped over in tears. Years later she would count the closed illegal abortion clinic as a blessing.
Meanwhile fresh out of college, Attorney Sarah Weddington is looking for a Jane Doe to challenge the abortion laws of Texas. As McCorvey is looking for an end to her pregnancy, somehow, someone refers her to Weddington. The actual manner in which the two were connected is not clear. But Weddington invited McCorvey to dinner with another attorney at Colombo’s Pizza Parlor in downtown Dallas. The two attorneys and Norma McCorvey are at a table eating pizza and drinking beer. There’s kind of brainstorm session going on – about what they’re going to call their plaintiff. They were trying to come up with a name by rhyming it with Doe- and it’s a bit humorous on the eerie side – three women trying to put an image on the whole matter.
Weddington says that an unidentified dead body is usually known as a “Jane Doe”, but counters with the fact that this plaintiff McCorvey is alive but wanting to remain unknown. McCorvey recalls them going through the alphabet, rhyming “Doe” with every consonant. They hit on Roe and that’s how they came up with the name. Then there’s the matter of signing papers. After a few pitchers of beer- McCorvey (now A.K.A. Jane Roe) signs some papers. After they had Roe signed, sealed and delivered the lawyers didn’t begin to coach her on how to testify according to McCorvey, they didn’t tell her what to wear for the hearing, in fact McCorvey never heard from Weddington again.
At the hearing Weddington presented Roe’s situation as being a woman who was pregnant from a rape. The issue of a “woman’s right to privacy” was the main thrust of the argument. Weddington knew she had McCorvey as a live plaintiff if she needed her. And Weddigton was pretty sure that by just having a real live testimony she would not have to present McCorvey to the court. You seldom hear the question – “Where were you when they announced the decision of Roe versus Wade?” In fact since it was preferable for the attorneys to keep McCorvey from testifying she was nowhere near the courthouse. Jane Roe wasn’t told when Roe versus Wade would be heard. Roe got the news from the local television broadcast “I was used by Sarah Weddington”, McCorvey says. So what did it mean to McCorvey? Wasn’t she free to find a legal clinic to have an abortion? At the time the ruling was read McCorvey was too far along in the pregnancy to have an abortion.
McCorvey recalls that the years following the decision that she was screamed at, ignored, and shunned by people as the Roe in Roe versus Wade. There are many misconceptions in the case surrounding Roe versus Wade. The two most important are: That McCorvey was told what she was signing by Weddington at the Pizzeria. McCorvey claims she was not. The second misconception was the rape allegation that Weddington used in her argument. It was false. McCorvey takes partial blame for that one. It was a claim she made and then recanted to Weddington.
Recently Sarah Weddington spoke in Texas highlighting “her accomplishments” as a truly independent woman who single-handedly gave women the right to abortion. It was a rally sponsored by Planned Parenthood with the theme: “Save Roe”! Meanwhile Roe, Norma McCorvey, was speaking outside the center, where Weddington was speaking. “I just wanted to ask her some questions about why she lied to me”, Norma explained. The real Jane Doe carries the burden of the millions of abortions that have been performed in the United States since 1973. She laughs and bristles at the same time when watching a pro-abortion activist walk by with the sign “Save Roe”. Norma plays on the words stating that “Roe was saved and baptized a long time ago.” The face to face reunion with Sarah Weddington never happened. Weddington walked right by McCorvey-not even giving a glance in her direction. To Weddington, McCorvey was a signature that she needed. To Weddington the resemblance to “her precious Roe” and Norma McCorvey is only that signature”. And the culture of denial goes on.