Norma McCorvey, “Jane Roe” Of Roe V. Wade, Is Dead At 69

Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography/Corbis/Getty Images.
Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, passed away of a heart ailment at 69 years old, reports The Washington Post. She leaves behind a complicated legacy. While many women's rights advocates originally considered her a compatriot, McCorvey never intended to become a reproductive rights activist. In fact, she eventually declared herself pro-life and sought to overturn the very legislation that turned her into a feminist icon. McCorvey adopted the pseudonym of Jane Roe to protect her anonymity during the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case whose ruling would legalize abortion and become a crucial touchstone of female reproductive rights in America. When she first filed the now infamous suit in 1970, however, McCorvey's goal was not sweeping political reform. Rather, the then 22-year-old Texan hoped only to gain the ability to legally and safely end a pregnancy she did not want. Unwed and struggling with addiction and poverty, McCorvey sought a legal way out of her current situation. But, when the Supreme Court issued its historical 7-to-2 ruling in her favor on January 22, 1973, arguing a constitutional right to privacy that included the choice to terminate a pregnancy, sweeping change arrived. When the decision came it failed to impact McCorvey directly. By that time, her baby was more than two years old, and she had given the child up for adoption. McCorvey herself learned of the ruling in a newspaper article. McCorvey later became an equally loved and hated figure­head in the battle over reproductive rights. Coming out of anonymity, she first shed her eponymous courtroom pseudonym in the 1980s to take a public stance in support of abortion rights. She later reversed her position, becoming a born-again Christian and a pro-life activist. She published two memoirs: One, I Am Roe, written with Andy Meisler in 1994, and another, Won By Love with co-author Gary Thomas in 1997. “I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name,” McCorvey told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 1998. “I would like nothing more than to have this law overturned.” A 2000 court affidavit underscores McCorvey's true feelings on the famous case: "They said yes, ‘You’re white. You’re young, pregnant, and you want an abortion.’ At that time, I didn’t know their full intent. Only that they wanted to make abortion legal and they thought I’d be a good plaintiff. I came for the food, and they led me to believe that they could help me get an abortion. At that time, I was a street person. I lived, worked, and panhandled out on the streets. My totally powerless circumstance made it easy for them to use me. My presence was a necessary evil. My real interests were not their concern."
McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2005. Her request was denied.

More from People

R29 Original Series