The Christian world has been buzzing ever since it was revealed that Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe” of the Roe v. Wade case, lied about her supposed “pro-life” epiphany.
She had made the switch, so to speak, in 1995, but a recent FX documentary filmed just before her 2017 death has her saying on camera, “It was all an act.” She took money from right-wing Christian groups, to the tune of nearly half a million dollars, to espouse whatever they wanted.
Writing for Christianity Today, Jonathan Van Maren claims that McCorvey’s friends still believe her change of heart was sincere:
“For this new documentary to quote Norma saying she was not genuinely pro-life is very suspicious,” said Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. “I knew Norma. Her pro-life convictions were not an act.”
“She was always such a blessing to talk to and hang out with,” [Bryan Kemper, the youth outreach director of Priests for Life] told me. “She was a friend, and someone who I know loved God and wanted to see an end to abortion.”
Both sides can probably agree that McCorvey was a complex figure. She wasn’t a perfect poster child for either side, really. She was certainly vulnerable, being poor, pregnant, and homeless at the time of the trial. It’s not hard to imagine that she could be easily molded or used in exchange for a chance at a new life.
But people will have to decide what matters more: the testimonies of anti-abortion activists who say they truly knew her… or her own words near the end of her life.
As for the money, says Van Maren,
… The figure is not a high one, considering that some pro-life speakers often earn upwards of $10,000 for a single speaking engagement. And being paid to advocate for a position is not the same thing as being paid to change your mind.
More importantly, my sources suggest that these monetary contributions were primarily given not for coercive purposes but for supportive ones. McCorvey’s pro-life friends cared deeply for her and often helped her financially when she was in need.
It’s possible that the $456,911 McCorvey received in “benevolent gifts” were just speaking fees and not straight-up bribes. But if someone offers you a five-figure amount to say you’re anti-abortion when the truth is you’re either ambivalent about the issue or secretly against that position, what’s the difference? The pressure to play the part exists either way. It’s not like she would have received the money had she supported abortion rights.
Of course, barring more evidence, it’s hard to know the truth. McCorvey is no longer with us. The “pro-life” movement will no doubt need better arguments for their position than “Even Jane Roe changed her mind!” but it’s not like anyone’s changing their position now that McCorvey’s stance on the matter is at least ambiguous.
It’s telling, though, how many people quoted in the piece insist their own recollection of her is more valid than her own words.
(Screenshot via YouTube)