Who Were They Then?
Norma Nelson was born Sep 1947 in a small town in Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas. From the age of ten she was in and out of trouble with the law and at the age of sixteen she married Woody McCorvey, a sheet-metal worker. When he learned she was pregnant, he turned violent and she left him after only two months. She gave birth to a little girl, Melissa, who was adopted by Norma’s mother, against the baby’s father’s wishes. In 1967, Norma gave up another child, Paige, for adoption and hasn’t seen her since. Then, in 1969, after a casual fling, Norma found herself pregnant for the third time. Working in a circus, not knowing where her next meal would come from or where she would spend the night, she could not imagine bringing another child into the world. As she would later write of this time, “I was a street kid. I lived with my dad part-time and on the streets part-time. I sold flowers on the street corner. These aren’t high-paying jobs.” She finally made the difficult decision to have an abortion. The problem was that in 1969 Texas, abortion was illegal. After seeing the horrible conditions in an underground abortion clinic and deciding against that, she was introduced to two lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. They wanted to get the ban on abortions overturned and were looking for a suitable test case. Poor, not wanting to bring another child into the world, and unable to afford a trip to a state where abortion was legal, Norma McCorvey was just what they were looking for.
She was given a pseudonym, Jane Roe. A class action suit was filed against then- Dallas District Attorney, Henry Wade. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where, on Jan 22, 1973, they handed down their 7-2 ruling in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. While it was a great victory for women that almost didn’t happen, the ruling was no help to Norma McCorvey, who had her baby three years before the Supremes ruled in her favor. She has not seen her child since a nurse accidentally handed the baby to her for feeding, not knowing that Norma was giving the baby up for adoption. She did not look at the baby’s face then, before having the nurse take it away, and she has no idea what her child looks like today.
Roe v. Wade remains one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history. (In the interests of full disclosure, I support the right of a woman to undergo whichever medical procedures she wishes on her own body. Our bodies belong to no one but ourselves, and no one else has a right to force us do things to it, such as carry a baby to term. Women are not property, and they do not “belong” to any man who impregnates them. That is Neanderthal-level thinking and it has no place in 21st-century society.) According to Bob Woodward’s The Brethren, Norma was close to losing her famous case altogether. In the original vote, taken when the Justices first discuss the case, Chief Justice Warren Burger assigned the case to recently confirmed new Associate Justice Harry Blackmun. They were going to rule against Jane Roe. But Harry took his time and wanted to make sure he really understood the issue, and he eventually came to the conclusion that the answer to the question of “Does a woman have a constitutional right to have an abortion?” had to be, “It depends.” And that’s how we got Roe v. Wade.
Norma has had a change of heart in recent years. She has joined up with Randall Terry and his Operation Rescue forces in the fight to overturn the Supreme Court decision that bears her pseudonym. Though she does not support the use of violence, she still wants to work with them despite the murder last month of Kansas OB/GYN Dr. George Tiller (a well-known expert in late-term abortions) by a supporter of Operation Rescue. (Note: These late-term abortions are done out of necessity, not convenience, no matter what anyone tells you.) On a personal note, I feel sad for her because her views are formed from her religious views, and not on scientific fact. She, herself, has never had an abortion, yet because of her, women in the United States have, theoretically, a constituitional right to have one. There are dark forces out there that simply will not abide by the teaching of “Live and let live,” and leave it as choosing to never have an abortion themselves. (Even easier for the men.) Instead, they want to deny the opportunity for a choice for everyone else. That is not how a believer in the Gods these people worship is supposed to behave. I seem to recall a message of “Judge not, lest yee yourself be judged.” I’m not the one professing to a belief in Christianity, so I feel totally free to pass judgment on these people. They are wrong.
Where Are They Now?
On Monday, July 13, 2009, Norma McCorvey was among several anti-abortion protesters ejected from the Senate Confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.