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"Roe has been her life, but it's no longer much of a living."
January 24, 2013 4:05 PM   Subscribe

"Better known as the “Jane Roe” in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey has led a conflicted life. Forty years ago, she was at the center of the court decision that famously legalized abortion. Today, she is a zealous anti-abortion advocate." Why did McCorvey turn against the cause she once championed? Tracing the life of an Accidental Activist. Via
posted by zarq (39 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
“She feels at the end of the day a little bit like she doesn’t have a side that she can belong to,” Way says. “She’s a little bit of an orphan.”

Hot damn, I guess Citizen Ruth wasn't that off after all.
posted by phaedon at 4:42 PM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


The original source lost me at "zealous anti-abortion advocate", when she calls herself "pro-life".
posted by koavf at 4:44 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although, I should say that her story is definitely a fascinating one and I do appreciate zarq's post—I was too dismissive above. Sorry.
posted by koavf at 4:52 PM on January 24, 2013


Way more complicated a life than I expected. Truly an unlikeable person, at least to me, that neither side should be considering a kindred spirit.
posted by tommasz at 5:05 PM on January 24, 2013


She is not a kindred spirit to either side and never was.
posted by basicchannel at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2013


She was selected by biology, not by sentiment or temperament.
posted by dhartung at 5:14 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article is very well done and, taken with the video, very revealing. People are more complicated and lives are messier than one supposes.

Commendations to Attorneys Coffee and Weddington. I approve their separate decisions decline the interview. They have surely earned the right to some privacy for themselves after all these years. Truly the torch has been passed.

Also, I am glad Ms. Gonzalez, the longtime partner whom Norma McCorvey abandoned and who seemed a caring person, has family who are caring for her.

I cannot find anything positive to say about Norma McCorvey and yet, somehow I want to be grateful to her for the part she played in that momentous change in the lives of women and their families in this country.
posted by Anitanola at 5:47 PM on January 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


She got to make a choice, and now she feels conflicted. Welcome to adulthood. At least SHE GOT TO MAKE A CHOICE.
posted by Renoroc at 5:53 PM on January 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


She got to make a choice, and now she feels conflicted. Welcome to adulthood. At least SHE GOT TO MAKE A CHOICE.
Which choice is that?
posted by BurntHombre at 5:58 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


By which I mean, she never had an abortion, and abortions weren't a legal option when she was pregnant.
posted by BurntHombre at 6:00 PM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Weddington was interviewed on The Current earlier this week, in this interview that runs up to the 13:00 mark on the player. Weddington spoke about McCorvey very briefly (after a clip of an anti-choice ad starring McCorvey that starts at 9:10), saying that McCorvey is lying about the case mentioning rape at all, and that she was clearly informed that the case would take longer than her pregnancy, so she would not be able to get a legal abortion.
posted by maudlin at 6:07 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


She got to make a choice, and now she feels conflicted. Welcome to adulthood. At least SHE GOT TO MAKE A CHOICE.

So I see your choice was to not read the article.
posted by crayz at 6:10 PM on January 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


This woman has been used as a tool by both camps. I don't think she's capable of really thinking clearly through the issues involved. I wish the lawyers had selected a test case who was really committed to the pro-choice movement.
posted by orange swan at 6:13 PM on January 24, 2013


I read this the other day and found it absolutely mesmerizing. I'm ashamed of how little I knew about Norma McCorvey--I knew the basics, but having it fleshed out for me actually made me feel for her a little bit, where before I had a kneejerk irritation with her.
posted by padraigin at 6:29 PM on January 24, 2013


Rampant paternalism, emotional blackmail, Christian Evangelism, and blatant third party manipulation kind of go hand in hand with the history of obstetrics in the United States... so while the story of Jane Roe was upsetting; I can't say I'm at all surprised at the evolution of the abortion legal argument and its framing.

However, I was mildly impressed to see what an extensive background role LBGT influences played in the work-up, though.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a family where we really never talked to each other about personal things, and the closest we ever got to a political discussion was me griping that Fox News was going to be on during dinner again. (Now that we're all adults, the political conversation has shifted more towards "lolz you voted for Obama you sucker," but I digress.)

I remember it was towards the end of high school when McCorvey was in the news trying to get Roe v Wade overturned. There was some segment on the morning news as we were getting ready for school/work, and I was in my parents' bathroom getting a towel while my mom was curling her hair and watching TV, and I just remember my mom being livid, absolutely livid, that this woman was "trying to ruin everything, how dare she."

Anyway, it was the first time I had ever 1) heard my mom say anything political that wasn't just parroted back from the TV, and 2) realized that she was pro choice (and perhaps rabidly so). I never addressed it, and we never talked about it, and that was all I ever heard her say on the matter, but still...it made me feel like a little less of an outcast in my own family.

So, I guess...thanks, Norma.
posted by phunniemee at 8:25 PM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seems strange that two of the major sources in the story are McCorvey's ex who "had lost her short-term memory—and her lesbian partner—after suffering a stroke six years earlier," and her mother who "now suffers from dementia." I have a hard time putting a ton of stock in them as narrators for some reason.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish the lawyers had selected a test case who was really committed to the pro-choice movement.

In 1970, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a New York state abortion case that included many plaintiffs—pregnant and formerly pregnant, counselors and physicians—specifically to avoid the "perfect plaintiff" issue. Their brief was the first based on women's right of self-determination, rather than a doctor's right to practice medicine.
posted by dogrose at 8:42 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the daughter that she tried to abort and the family that adopted said daughter are glad that abortion was illegal at the time. I know that I, an adopted child of a teenage mother born pre-Roe v. Wade am glad to be alive.
posted by TSOL at 9:38 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


TSOL: I'm pretty sure that the daughter that she tried to abort and the family that adopted said daughter are glad that abortion was illegal at the time. I know that I, an adopted child of a teenage mother born pre-Roe v. Wade am glad to be alive.

You can't use that argument to determine policy, though. It was exactly as important to their existence that their parents had sex and could therefore get pregnant in the first place, but you would certainly never expect the government to enforce that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:46 PM on January 24, 2013 [32 favorites]


She got to make a choice, and now she feels conflicted. Welcome to adulthood. At least SHE GOT TO MAKE A CHOICE.

I'm pretty sure either side would champion that sentiment.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:19 PM on January 24, 2013


Not really. By definition the anti-abortion side would not want people to chose abortion.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:59 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The original article is very illustrative of the way the whole abortion debate is handled though, isn't it? Famous person associated with abortion rights recants, is given space to explain herself, abortion is serious business people and never ever easy and you will regret your decisions yadda yadda.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:02 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't use that argument to determine policy, though. It was exactly as important to their existence that their parents had sex and could therefore get pregnant in the first place, but you would certainly never expect the government to enforce that.

As an adoptee and child of unwed birthmother, I stand by this remark. If I had not been born, I would not miss anything at all. The universe, even the Earth, would be pretty much the same. Except, maybe, I'd have been born to someone who wished to be parent/s, instead of adopted by some people that felt kids were a required accessory.
posted by Goofyy at 1:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


You can't use that argument to determine policy, though.

Well that's the rub here isn't it? In defense of "woman's rights," pro-choice advocates cruelly deny any humanity to the fetus - which for me is an illogical departure from the general concern liberals have toward life.

Pro-life advocates are not so callous and hard-hearted towards the fetus - and in this way they embrace liberal compassion for the poor and defenseless - but for this they are castigated as zealous "anti-choice" monsters.

There seems to be common ground on both sides that society should protect and provide for the weak and defenseless. For conservatives this sadly stops at birth, for liberals this (equally sadly) does not begin until birth (or the first trimester or whatever convenient arbitrary line is selected as the point when life begins.)

Of course Ms McCorvery has struggled to deal with this and her role in it. It is one hell of a legacy to have to live with.

When I as a teenager, I once hit a dog with my car by accident, killed it, and did not feel the slightest bit of remorse, only a bit of annoyance for the damage to my quarter panel and the delay in having to deal with the emotional owner. My girlfriend who was with me at the time was horrified by my complete lack of feeling towards that animal and the owner, but I explained to her that for me, the dog was the equivalent of a fetus - not deserving of any compassion. "What about my feelings?" I asked. "Look at the damage to my car! Do you know how much this is gonna cost me?"

Like Ms MsCorvery, my views have changed over the years and now I will not even swat an insect recognizing that life in all of its many forms is not something I should have a choice to kill. If I hit a dog today, I would feel terrible and guilty about it and I think makes me a better person than I was before.
posted by three blind mice at 2:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


TBM, your characterization or pro-choice activists seems like it is more shaped by your personal philosophical evolution than it is actually shaped by reality.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:58 AM on January 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


"What about my feelings?" I asked. "Look at the damage to my car! Do you know how much this is gonna cost me?"

Because the bodies of women are equivalent to cars? Wait, what?
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:04 AM on January 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


You can't use that argument to determine policy, though. It was exactly as important to their existence that their parents had sex and could therefore get pregnant in the first place, but you would certainly never expect the government to enforce that.

Said the president to the intern.
posted by jaduncan at 5:06 AM on January 25, 2013


In many ways I'm glad that the primary personality who became the face of decriminalized abortion in Canada was a doctor rather than a patient, because I think that bearing that role when you didn't select it would be challenging for the majority of people and ruinous for the weak. And McCorvey is evidently not very strong.
posted by Kurichina at 7:48 AM on January 25, 2013


Pro-life advocates are not so callous and hard-hearted towards the fetus

No, they reserve their callousness and lack of compassion for women and their existing families.
posted by caryatid at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Pro-life advocates are not so callous and hard-hearted towards the fetus

Pro-life people may certainly care about the fetus, but pro-life as a movement cares about that fetus very, very little. It's just a convenient warm fuzzy to point to in order to disguise their primary "slut control" agenda.
posted by phunniemee at 8:53 AM on January 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


three blind mice: "Well that's the rub here isn't it? In defense of "woman's rights," pro-choice advocates cruelly deny any humanity to the fetus - which for me is an illogical departure from the general concern liberals have toward life.

Pro-life advocates are not so callous and hard-hearted towards the fetus - and in this way they embrace liberal compassion for the poor and defenseless - but for this they are castigated as zealous "anti-choice" monsters.
"

Not all of us believe that a fetus, especially an early-stage, first trimester (weeks 1-12) fetus is alive. They are certainly nothing more than a potential person. It's worth noting also that very often, they fail to thrive. 50-75% of all conceptions and 10-25% of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriages with no outside intervention.

Building into what phunniemee said, above: this isn't a "humanity" issue. It's not about compassion. It's about controlling women and vacating their right to body autonomy.

It makes little to no sense to treat an 8 week fetus (for example,) which isn't a person, can't survive outside the womb and is statistically somewhat unlikely to survive to term, as if it were an actualized human being. It is irrational to place a higher value on that fetus than its mother or even to treat them equally.
posted by zarq at 9:02 AM on January 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


Not all of us believe that a fetus, especially an early-stage, first trimester (weeks 1-12) fetus is alive. They are certainly nothing more than a potential person. It's worth noting also that very often, they fail to thrive. 50-75% of all conceptions and 10-25% of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriages with no outside intervention.

This makes the slut-punishment all the more obvious given that some pro-life people believe life has started at conception but are also against contraception. So many babies nominally killed because people can't use a condom.
posted by jaduncan at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Well that's the rub here isn't it? In defense of "woman's rights," pro-choice advocates cruelly deny any humanity to the fetus - which for me is an illogical departure from the general concern liberals have toward life.

I would immensely disagree with this.

I have a lot of compassion for fetuses and for mothers. The decision to have an abortion is a complicated one, but so is the decision to give a baby up for adoption or to become a parent.

I am pro-choice precisely because I have compassion for mothers and fetuses. I am pro-choice because, as Norma McCorvey's story shows, life is full of a lot complications, a lot of twists and turns, and a lot of having to live with whatever choices are made.

And that requires compassion.
posted by zizzle at 10:04 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


but are also against contraception

This, for me, is the clearest indicator that the pro-life movement is about something other than keeping fetuses from being aborted. Obama's health plan is just about as pro-life as possible--free and widely available birth control is the single greatest force we have to reduce the number of abortions--and yet pro-lifers are rabidly against it.
posted by phunniemee at 10:25 AM on January 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hot damn, I guess Citizen Ruth wasn't that off after all.

Norma McCorvey certainly could have been a Citizen Ruth, although the movie was inspired by another case of a woman addicted to paint fumes who was encouraged to abort by a judge, but who also attracted a $10,000 offer form an antiabortion group to keep the baby.
posted by jonp72 at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2013


I guess if we wanted to take the hit-dog-with-car metaphor, weird as it is, to a logical conclusion, it would be like if the National Don't Hit Dogs Committee was also adamantly opposed to fencing or leashing dogs. "You car-driving freaks should drive under 10 mph, and watch where you're going, and then you wouldn't need these immoral leashes and fences that God never intended us to use!"

When I was in the "prolife" movement, McCorvey was, as you might expect, a Very Big Deal, and much was made of her regret about being part of Roe v. Wade. At the same time, you couldn't see her speak without feeling some pity and ambivalence. Her life was more complicated than the "woman led into sinful abortion by confusion in the face of Teh Evul Feminists/Libruls," narrative that most people in antichoice groups tended to assume.

Just as all women having an abortion was assumed to be either in the thrall of monstrous desires or simple misled souls too dumb to understand they were killing their babies.
posted by emjaybee at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2013


50-75% of all conceptions and 10-25% of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriages with no outside intervention.

This is what really bothers me, when people are all up-at-arms about protecting the fetus. Does this protection go to proper pre-natal screening, providing some support system for mothers who want to be mothers, but don't know where to get help?

Anti-abortion advocates seem to be focused on such a small facet of life, the time where some blobby proto-person might be terminated. I have done no research in this, but from my casual observation, anti-abortion advocates are all about keeping someone from intentionally stopping the process that would lead to a new person. Are they talking to pregnant alcoholics, or trying to help pregnant drug addicts?

If some anti-abortion advocates are, please tell me more. I would have a lot more respect for them then. Until then, their world view is too small, ignoring the swirling, complex, messy, terrifying world that is the process in which a child born and becomes a separate entity.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know that I, an adopted child of a teenage mother born pre-Roe v. Wade am glad to be alive.

Yes, but if you were not alive you would neither be glad or unhappy; you simply wouldn't be.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:00 AM on January 26, 2013


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