Norma McCorvey: From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life July 9, 2009

Norma McCorvey: From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life

***Update***: For some reason, comments were turned off on this posting earlier. They’re back on, now! Sorry for the confusion.

Norma McCorvey was once known as “Jane Roe” in the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion throughout the country. For years, she was proud to be pro-choice.

Most of you may know that that’s no longer the case. McCorvey now works with extremely religious pro-life groups.

There was a fascinating article about her transition in The Guardian:

Here’s what McCorvey wrote in 1994, when she was proud to be Jane Roe, a supporter of the women’s rights she helped to attain: “All over the country the anti-choice fanatics are still at work, still trying to inflict their own religious views on others, still trying to hide their anti-woman feelings, still trying to keep us from controlling our own bodies and our own lives.”

Yet here is McCorvey today, on the steps of the supreme court where those rights were laid down: “These steps are covered in blood! ‘Equal justice under the law’ — what crock! If there is no right for a child to be born, there is no justice at all.”

Personally, I was really interested in reading about when exactly she made the change:

When her book came out in 1994 [Operation Rescue members] picketed her signings, shouting at her that she was responsible for the deaths of 35 million unborn babies. Then Operation Rescue took out a lease on the house next door to the abortion clinic where McCorvey worked. They began talking to her, befriending her, offering her lunch.

“I started watching the rescuers and wondering what makes them tick. They were down to earth, they weren’t telling me I was going to fry in hell, though I’m sure they were thinking that. They were very kind to me.”

Slowly, they turned her ideas around. In August 1995 she allowed herself to be baptised in a backyard swimming pool in Dallas. Three years later, she took her first Catholic mass.

My main question wasn’t answered. I feel like there must’ve been some point, some moment, when what they said tipped her thinking to the other side. I don’t know what they said but I’m curious.

It’s possible that her transition happened over time — that’s how it happened for me regarding atheism — but reading the article, she seems very impressionable. One reasonable pro-life argument may have been all that was needed.

When you became an atheist, was it due to one particular thing you heard or read? Or was it due to a collection of several different thoughts going through your mind over a period of time?

(Thanks to hoverFrog for the link!)

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  • I’m just as curious, since she has done a complete 180 on her views and thoughts. I’m not sure how old she is, but I do tend to think that growing old helps people change their views. Something about wanting to get into heaven now…

    As for my atheist views, it was a years in the making progress. Coming from a Mormon upbringing to not needing any belief in any god or religion took it’s process over the last 20 years of my life.

  • Jeff B

    I went into college after 12 years of Catholic School. I took a class called Women in Religion. It covered the role women play in all organized religions. 1st objective look I ever got of doctrine. That led me to look into more of the hypocrisy surrounding all OR’s and eventually not only separate myself from the church, but belief as well. Very refreshing.

  • I read an article on/interview with her a few years after her change in beliefs in (I think) The Advocate. At the time, she was still in a relationship with another woman, though apparently it had been completely asexual for the two or so years since her switch.

  • grazatt

    Mouse, do you think you can find a link to that article? I would like to read it

  • Nick Wallin

    When you became an atheist, was it due to one particular thing you heard or read? Or was it due to a collection of several different thoughts going through your mind over a period of time?

    Well, I was not raised Christian, but not raised “atheist” either. I was an “implicit atheist” or nonreligious or whatever you want to call it, until I read in a packet we were given in 8th grade Geography (dealing with the history of man) that read something like “20,000 B.C.: Man invents religion to escape fear of death.”

    At that point, I basically said to myself “Oh, so everyone’s just lying to themselves to feel better. That makes sense.” This is when I became an “explicit atheist”. From that point on the whole concept of religion and the supernatural was just beyond me (or, rather, below me).

  • Spurs Fan

    I heard her speak in college back in 96 or 97. She told the same story about the folks moving in next door, they were awesome, so the god they worshiped must be awesome, thus I began to believe, etc. A Q and A time was listed in the event’s program, but it was very short and she was not able to put up a solid answer to the questions posed to her (one time she simply answered by encouraging the questioner to go look up a verse in Deuteronomy). The meeting ended with a hat being passsed around for donations, though I can’t remember to whom (hopefully not Operation Rescue).

    I was amazed how uneducated she was. I guess I always assume that major plaintiffs and defendants are chosen based on their intelligence, but I guess that’s an oversimplification. Was Linda Brown smart?

  • I was around seven when the first seeds of atheism began to sink in. At that time I was pretty much a Christian. I went to Sunday School, both of my grandmothers were pastors, and I prayed every night like a good boy. Then my grandfather died and it tore me up good. I couldn’t understand why God would do that to a little boy. I prayed every night for a couple weeks after his death trying to get an answer, and nothing came. That’s when I stopped going to Sunday School or praying.

    That was the starting point, but I still spent quite a bit of time looking at different faiths trying to find one that worked for me. In the end I just couldn’t force myself to believe in something I knew to be false, so I gave up. It started with that one thing, but it grew from years of questions and thoughtful introspection.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    I remember when I became an atheist. I don’t remember the exact date (sometime in April of ’08, I believe), but I remember it being like flipping a switch.

    As I recall, I had recently heard about the death of a young girl, a child of Christian Scientist parents who allowed her to die of type 2 diabetes. My initial reaction was to criticize the parents for not doing the obvious and taking their daughter to a doctor. But then I thought, if I believe in a loving God who is active in the world, why wouldn’t I expect him to heal the girl without a doctor?

    At this point I asked myself why I believed in God at all, and realized I didn’t have a good answer. I realized the best evidence I had was highly subjective personal experiences that could just as easily be heightened emotional states.

    I basically went from theist to atheist in the span of about an hour, though it took much longer to really come to terms with that and to admit it to myself (as well as much resistance and trying, and failing, to find evidence to support my former belief). It was rather jarring, forcing myself to turn my reason on the blind-spot of my faith so suddenly.

    Of course, the seeds had been planted long before, mostly by the JREF website. After ravenously consuming (and agreeing with) everything the JREF had to say on supernatural matters outside of Christianity, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would finally examine my rational blind-spot.

  • Dallas

    I was raised Catholic and attended 12 years of Catholic school. My widowed mother struggled to pay my tuition, and while the school was highly regarded, many of the affluent “good Catholic” students were terrible snobs who made my life miserable even as they patted themselves on the back for making A’s in religion classes. I quit going to church before I was out of my teens due to disagreements with church teachings on birth control, divorce, homosexuality, etc. Over the years, while I still considered myself a theist, I distanced myself more and more from organized religion. I married an atheist, but my husband has always been careful not to influence me. The more I read about science and reason, the more agnostic I became, although I still prayed from time to time. Widespread human and animal suffering and the prevalence of war and cruelty caused me to frequently question the validity of an omnipotent god. Finally, one night while I was watching Animal Planet, I saw a dog that had been tied to a post and abandoned by its owner. The dog had died of thirst with its snout shoved into a drainpipe, desperate for water. That show was my tipping point. I can’t tell you how angry I felt, and I thought “Damn it–if there IS a god who allowed this and all the other horrors in the world, he/she will get no more acknowledgement from me.” I completely quit praying, and for a while, I felt like I’d lost my best friend. With the passage of time, I’ve come to enjoy being free from the constraints of religious belief and the threat of eternal damnation. This site and the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter have helped me transition to a much more comfortable place. I continue to strive to be the best person I can be, and I gratefully embrace logic, decency, and common sense.

  • stephanie

    Man, talk about Stockholm Syndrome!!!

    Umm, my atheism came about slowly and naturally with no one taking a lease next door to me and pressuring me about my beliefs.

  • Alz

    I watched the movie “The Invasion” a few nights ago on DVD..

    My Atheism started early but it took a long time to remove all the shackles of fear of hell, desire for heaven, and superstition of ghosts. The power of delusion still nags at me at times (not for the supernatural anymore). It seems to be a protective mechanism to shield me from the hard truth. I can see how someone put in her situation could give in to delusion to protect herself from all the attention and possible danger that came her way.

  • zoo

    I’d been on the way for maybe 6 years when I had a friend just tell me I’m atheist. I had to figure out what the “what’s wrong with me that I don’t feel like the church people say I should?” meant (atheism was not ever presented as a valid option when it came to religion. . . really anything much different from Southern Baptist doctrine wasn’t a valid option in my family. . . ever. . . so it honestly hadn’t occurred to me what was going on) and feeling insulted about certain things being attacked because just about everyone else I knew was/is so into it (same friend was very venomous, it really was attacks; he may have had valid criticisms behind them, but he was badly hurt by a lot of things in his short life and tended to let that out on me).

    It took a few more years for it to really solidify. I’m thinking my biology degree helped quite a bit. And yes I’m surprised I was allowed to take it too :P. I learned what evolution and evolutionary theory really are and how they really work. I learned a lot about how to approach and evaluate evidence as well.

    What really sealed it for me, regarding Christianity particularly, was when I started studying the influence of the cat family on various cultures (that’s a damned big topic, btw, I don’t recommend it if you’re the type that has to know any more than little bits like ‘The Chinese consider the tiger to be king of the beasts’), which involves a lot of exposure to information about indigenous religion and symbolism, and I realized that before the Spanish arrived, the Maya and the Aztecs and the Inca and the countless tribes and civilizations between sincerely believed that they were right, and they had never heard of the Christian god. Somewhere I came across the fact that there are still uncontacted tribes out there even today that haven’t the first idea about Jesus. And what I was always taught was people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell. . . not hearing was not an excuse. Completely unfair to millions of people who had died before they even heard of the guy (and the Spanish weren’t exactly there for missionary purposes either. . .). Though I don’t think it was asked for, to answer that criticism a missionary that visited the church we were attending and told us about the people he was working with, how they cross a bridge when they’re about to die (I don’t recall if it was a literal or metaphorical bridge) and they’re afraid to do it. He said that meant they knew without being told that there’s something unpleasant waiting for them. Because there are no other reasons to not want to/be afraid to die.

  • JJ

    Well, I’d contend that she did in fact tell us exactly why she changed her views. Being a logical person yourself you are making the (wrong) assumption that some logical argument or debate point changed her but many people value group loyalty over logic.

    I’m certain she simply became a member of a different ‘in’ group and adopted their beliefs to fit into it. It is as simple as that IMO. It’s the same reason you can’t ‘win’ an argument with a believer, since logic simply doesn’t matter to them. *shrug*

    As for becoming an atheist I am in the ‘always been one’ crowd. I never had religion so never converted.

  • weaves

    I think I’ve always had a disbelief in god, from very young. I only became active about it towards the end of school when I became aware of how much it was (passively) affecting my life. No biology/evolution classes in school, gay rights, abortion issues…

    as for abortion, I am pro-life for MYSELF, pro-choice for everyone else 😛

  • SarahHToo

    My atheism happened rather quickly. After years of tearfully being saved and frantically trying to hang onto the flush of devotion and “Godliness” that always came to me during impassioned church services, and fighting the guilt that came when my feelings inevitably faded, I was sitting in front of my computer one day. The screen was frozen, and I thought vaguely that I’d pray for help, as I was working on something important. Suddenly, it hit me-God was not going to come through the computer screen and change everything. Haven’t looked back since.

  • I felt really sorry for her. She’s clearly not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer and has been used by others throughout her life. Even Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee used McCorvey because they wanted to challenge the Texas abortion ban. If was not her own decision. Her life has been far from enjoyable and she seesm to have latched on to anything that gives a sense of meaning to her existence, even when it goes against her own opinions.

  • Ed

    In the excellent documentary on abortion “Lake of Fire,” Norma says one day after years of speaking to the operation rescue folks, she decided to see for herself if what they were claiming was true (that the office where she worked was killing “real” babies) and she went into the freezer room where the she saw fully formed baby bodies. It was at this point, faced with near full term baby bodies, that she became pro choice.

    If you have not seen this documentary I can’t recommend it highly enough (though be warned it is very graphic, showing actual late term abortions as well as crime scene photos of murdered doctors)

    The following link is Noam Chomsky and Peter Singer discussing abortion in “lake of Fire”.

  • She is a robot, programmed through a multi-pronged brainwash procedure.

  • postsimian

    I believe the answer you’re looking for is what they refer to as “love bombing.” Scientology uses it to great effect. You’re probably already aware of the tactic, but if not, do look it up!

  • Renee

    THis is interesting. There seems to be a sort of testimony-giving about deconversion from rather than conversion to faith.

    I have not been deconverted. I know God is real and answers my prayers. I know I have seen supernatural things.

    I just want to say, be careful about considering people programmed or weakminded because of their faith in God. In this case anyway, programming should have worked in completely the other way given Ms McCorvey’s years of being a pro-choice advocate.

    What kind of programming in less than a year overturns a lifetime of previous conviction?

    as for “love bombing” – if you read what she has to say at you will see that a child, presumably unskilled in such techniques, was the person who impacted her the most.

    Perhaps they were genuinely loving her. I know it is possible because I do it and have done it. Not because people will be converted, but because God gives me desire and strength to do it and because I want to.

    Why believe in love if you don’t believe in God?

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