Complainant Roe against Wade was paid to activate the abortion: FX doc


When Norma McCorvey, the anonymous complainant in Roe vs. Wade, who spoke out against abortion in 1995, stunned the world and represented a huge symbolic victory for opponents of abortion: “Jane Roe” had gone to the other side. For the rest of his life, McCorvey worked to overturn the law that bore his name.

But that was just a lie, says McCorvey in a documentary filmed in the months leading up to her death in 2017, claiming that she only did it because she was paid by anti-abortion groups, including Operation Rescue.

“I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they put me in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I would say, “she said in” AKA Jane Roe, “which will air on Friday on FX. “It was quite an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress. “

In what she describes as a “confession on the deathbed”, McCorvey, visibly ill, reiterates her support for reproductive rights in colorful terms: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, it is not a skin of ass. That’s why they call it choice. “

    Norma McCorvey in a scene from the FX documentary

Norma McCorvey in a scene from the FX documentary “AKA Jane Roe”.


Coming in an election year as the Supreme Court is considering a high-profile abortion case that could undermine Roe against Wade and several states across the country have imposed so-called “heartbeat laws” effectively prohibiting the procedure, “AKA Jane Roe “Is likely to provoke strong emotions on both sides of this perennial front in cultural wars.

Director Nick Sweeney says his goal was not necessarily to be controversial, but to create a full-fledged portrait of an imperfect and fascinating woman who changed the course of American history but believed she was in use as a pawn by both sides in the debate.

“The goal of the film is Norma. This is what I really want people to take out of the film – who is that enigmatic person at the center of this very contentious issue, “he said. “With a problem like this, there may be a temptation for different players to reduce” Jane Roe “to an emblem or a trophy, and behind that is a real person with a true story. Norma was incredibly complex. “

Sweeney began making the film in April 2016, frequently visiting McCorvey in Katy, Texas. At first, he said, she was reluctant, “but when she realized that I was not involved in the abortion debate, she was very happy to open up. During the time they spent together, McCorvey recounted the details of his difficult upbringing – marked by abuse, neglect, and going to reform school – a turbulent personal life, including a marriage of short-lived teens and a decades-long relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez.

“I thought it was extremely interesting and enigmatic. I loved that her life was filled with these fascinating contradictions, “said Sweeney, who also interviewed figures on both sides of the abortion issue who were close to McCorvey, including lawyer Gloria Allred and Rob Schenck , evangelical minister and former chief of Operation Rescue. .

McCorvey appears to be funny, sharp and unfiltered, with a broad performative sequence. She talks about the lines of “Macbeth” and jokes: “I’m a very glamorous person – I can’t help it, it’s a gift. “

The documentary includes scenes from McCorvey on election night 2016 – a few months before his death from heart failure at age 69 – expressing support for Hillary Clinton. “I would have liked to know how many abortions Donald Trump was responsible for,” wonders McCorvey. “I’m sure he lost count if he can count that high. “

“She had a sort of cunning mind,” says Sweeney, recalling the many hours he spent with her at Katy, shopping for donuts, or sitting in a park where she picked him up magnolia flowers.

But there is also great sadness, especially around her relationship with Gonzalez, which she gave up after her conversion in 1995.

Norma McCorvey

Norma McCorvey on a summer afternoon in Smithville, Texas.

(Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Corbis)

The film explores one of the great ironies in the story of McCorvey’s life: although it helped legalize abortion, McCorvey herself never had an abortion. She was pregnant with her third child when, in 1970, she signed an affidavit challenging Texas laws that prohibited abortions except to save a mother’s life. As a poor and uneducated woman who could not afford to travel outside the state or to have an illegal proceeding, she was the perfect complainant for the lawyers who tried the case, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee.

“I know how I felt when I found out I was pregnant and I was not going to let another woman experience it – cheap, dirty and not good,” said McCorvey in the film. “Women make mistakes, they make mistakes with men, and things happen. It’s just Mother Nature at work. You can’t stop it. You can’t explain it. It’s just something that happens. “

But it would take three years for the Supreme Court to reach a verdict, when McCorvey had long since given birth to a girl who had been abandoned for adoption. (Her second child was also abandoned for adoption; her first child was raised by her mother.) McCorvey recalls hearing the decision from the newspaper and receiving a phone call from Weddington saying they had won. “Why should I be excited? I had a baby, but I betrayed it. It’s for all the women who come after me. “

“AKA Jane Roe” also shows how McCorvey was held at arm’s length by abortion rights advocates. After a decade of anonymity, McCorvey went public in the 1980s and began granting interviews, and was starring in the Emmy-winning TV movie “Roe vs Wade” with Holly Hunter. But for leaders of the abortion rights movement, the inconsistencies in its history – for a while, McCorvey claimed that she became pregnant as a result of rape, then said she was lying – and the lack of polishing made it a less than ideal poster for the cause.

In 1995, she worked in a Dallas abortion clinic that was targeted for protests by Operation Rescue, an activist organization known for its extreme tactics such as blocking clinics (the group is now known as Operation Save America). She formed an unlikely friendship with Flip Benham, an evangelical minister, who baptized her in a backyard pool, and for the next two decades of her life was a date at anti-abortion protests and documentaries. In 1998, she published a second memoir, “Won by Love,” detailing her change of mind on abortion. As Benham recalls with obvious pride in “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey also participated in demonstrations where he burned the LGBT flag and the Koran.

Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey says she was a mercenary, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the anti-abortion movement, at least corroborates the allegations at least, saying it was paid for fear of “going back to the other side,” he said in the film. “There are times when I asked myself: does she play us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was because I know we’re playing it. “

Schenck regrets targeting McCorvey, someone whose vulnerabilities could be easily exploited, he said. “What we did with Norma was highly unethical. The template is in place. ”


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