RIP Jane Roe
February 18, 2017 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Norma McCorvey passes away at 69... Ms. McCorvey, the iconic Roe in Roe v. Wade, just passed away in an assisted living facility at the age of 69.
posted by Samizdata (24 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by sarcas at 10:13 AM on February 18, 2017


. indeed.
posted by Samizdata at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2017


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posted by Mister Bijou at 10:21 AM on February 18, 2017


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A lot of SCOTUS plaintiffs are heroes, and she is one of them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


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If you haven't seen Lake of Fire, this might be a good time. A complicated life.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:29 AM on February 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


. by all means. Her conversion to the anti-abortion cause rankles though.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:39 AM on February 18, 2017 [8 favorites]


. (I initially read iconic as ironic, which is kind of apt)
posted by Dashy at 10:44 AM on February 18, 2017


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posted by genehack at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2017


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posted by limeonaire at 11:22 AM on February 18, 2017


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Let us work to make sure that the sacrifice she made by being the public face of a private health decision is not denigrated. I am terrified of Gorsuch.
posted by anya32 at 11:43 AM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


She went through a lot of things that nobody should ever have to go through, and I hope she found some peace somewhere in all of it--and if she didn't, that she has peace now. I think Roe v. Wade was a good decision, but I don't disagree with the fact that she was used then, and used afterwards, and that none of this was something a woman from her background--or any background--deserved to have to be in the middle of.
posted by Sequence at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2017 [28 favorites]


I am terrified of Gorsuch.

The way Trump is going we'll not even get to a point where Roe is relitigated.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


It would've been pretty crummy to be outed and have your name associated with such a divisive issue. RIP
posted by theora55 at 12:04 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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posted by smangosbubbles at 12:44 PM on February 18, 2017


Norma McCorvey is almost emblematic in demonstrating how cross-class feminist alliances can fail. If you want to figure out why 61% of white women without a college degree voted for Trump despite Trump's obvious sexism and stop that from happening again, Norma McCorvey would make an instructive case study.

I wrote a post on Quora that summed up how she went from pro-choice symbol to pro-life activist and then finally ended up alienating people in both movements:

The best overview of Norma McCorvey's life and her conversion to opposing abortion can be found in the February 2013 Vanity Fair article, Tracing the Life of Norma McCorvey, “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, and Why She’d Favor an Abortion Ban. I can't speak for what "pro-choice people" as a whole might feel about Norma McCorvey, but personally, I'm just sad she's had such a hard life.

She grew up being raised by an abusive mother, a woman who later admitted to Vanity Fair "I beat the fuck out of [Norma]." By the time she was 16, she was already pregnant and married to Elwood McCorvey, a sheet metal worker she ran off with a year earlier. Her husband Elwood was also physically abusive to her, and she ended up divorcing him before her daughter Melissa was born. At 19, Norma was openly identifying as a lesbian and working at a gay bar, but still continued have relationships with men, including one relationship that left her pregnant a second time. By this time, Norma had lost custody of her daughter Melissa to her mother, and she would eventually give up the second child for adoption. After getting pregnant a third time, Norma decided to have an abortion, but the procedure wasn't legally available in Texas at the time. While the court case was under review, Norma McCorvey would get drunk and pound her pregnant belly with her fists. Ironically, McCorvey gave birth to her third child, before Texas state courts ruled on her case. Like her second child, the third child would be given away immediately for adoption.

McCorvey's conversion to the anti-abortion cause occurred in 1995, when Flip Benham, the successor to Randall Terry as head of Operation Rescue, baptized McCorvey in a backyard swimming pool.

According to the Vanity Fair profile,

Publicly, the pro-choice movement more or less shrugged. McCorvey’s former lawyer, Sarah Weddington, said, “All Jane Roe ever did was sign a one-page legal affidavit.” But Charlotte Taft, the women’s-rights advocate, regrets that the pro-choice camp did not make McCorvey feel more needed or more special. And, she says, evangelical religion provided Norma with something the pro-choice movement could not: the comfort of absolute truth. “She got to know she is right,” says Taft.

There was something else in it for McCorvey, something practical. As Gloria Allred points out, “It’s a career choice as well.” After resigning her position at A Choice for Women and shuttering her second foundation, McCorvey helped to create a new Texas nonprofit, Roe No More Ministry, devoted to undoing all she had previously stood for. It was Roe v. Roe.

Sadly, it appears that McCorvey has spent most of her adult life as a pawn between both the pro-choice and pro-life movements. She felt undervalued by the pro-choice movement, but she has also alienated people on the pro-life side. Flip Benham, the man who convinced McCorvey to undergo a religious conversion and become an activist against abortion, now says of her, "She just fishes for money."

posted by jonp72 at 12:50 PM on February 18, 2017 [39 favorites]


Well, at least we can say that Roe outlived Roe. ☹️
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:39 PM on February 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 3:05 PM on February 18, 2017


I think Roe v. Wade was a good decision, but I don't disagree with the fact that she was used then, and used afterwards, and that none of this was something a woman from her background--or any background--deserved to have to be in the middle of.

This prods me to recommend the film Citizen Ruth to anyone who hasn't seen it!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


I am terrified of Gorsuch.

The way Trump is going we'll not even get to a point where Roe is relitigated.


It won't matter who is president when the case comes if Gorsuch gets confirmed, though Kennedy may step up depending on the specifics. He'll okay restrictions if he thinks they don't pose an undue burden, but won't go so far as to actually overturn Roe. Right now in favor of abortion rights we have Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and possibly Kennedy. In favor of overturning Roe we have Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Kennedy is in the middle, and while his position is unfortunately influenced by his religious beliefs he does also consider Roe settled law. Where this gets ugly is of course in the specifics, like his votes on Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey, which allowed states to impose the 24 hour hold but denied a spousal consent provision, and Gonzales v. Carhartt, which banned certain procedures and is seen as a ban on "partial-birth" abortion (which is not a term used by doctors, just forced-birth fanatics).
posted by bile and syntax at 6:16 PM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


The Vanity Fair article that jonp72 mentions is really good: The Accidental Activist by Joshua Prager.
posted by great_radio at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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Such an incredible sacrifice. Knowing how polarizing Roe and other women's issues have been over the years in the US, I can't even imagine the pain and public humiliation she personally went through.

And she was only 69, dying in an assisted living facility? I truly hope she received the love and support she deserved in her remaining days.
posted by hampanda at 8:38 PM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Charlotte Taft, the women’s-rights advocate, regrets that the pro-choice camp did not make McCorvey feel more needed or more special. And, she says, evangelical religion provided Norma with something the pro-choice movement could not: the comfort of absolute truth.

Good riddance.

Unlike everyone else, I can't have sympathy towards this woman. She was baptized by a terrorist and joined a movement which actively fights for a world in which women are maimed and die.

If this were any other issue, no one would be sympathetic towards her. But abortion is symblematic of second wave feminism, the type we apparently don't care about anymore, so everyone thinks her history is somehow nuanced.

She died supporting a group that wants women to die. I'm not sure why I ought to sympathize with her.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 12:29 AM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think there are probably some lessons that could be learned about how both sides are failing us all in her case. She was vulnerable to start with--poor, abused, prone to addiction and risky promiscuity--and both sides tried to use her without really caring all that much about her as a person. Something similar happened to an old close friend of mine in high school. She got pregnant and a crowd of helpful, caring adults formed a protective shield around her and gave her a lot of positive social approval and attention she'd been craving but not getting from her unsympathetic father at home. They made her feel loved and respected, but once her child was born and successfully signed off for adoption, that crowd dispersed and it became clear they hadn't really cared about her at all but had only been interested in making sure she didn't have an abortion. They had secretly been antiabortion activists but had never directly explained where their support was really coming from and what their true motivations were. They manipulated her instead of engaging on an honest basis. That's not uncommon for groups of political activists. Activists and operatives on both sides sometimes start to see people more as strategic or tactical assets than as human beings. The right's manipulations can seem more egregious because you can tell they don't even have a deep commitment to the causes they use to manipulate people, but both sides do sometimes forget to treat others like flesh and blood, feeling and experiencing human beings with distinct histories, capabilities, and points of view. Both sides are also guilty sometimes of imaging other human beings as philosophical zombies whose own claims about their motives and interior lives can and should immediately be discounted and treated as attempts to deceive and manipulate. Those cynical, contemptuous attitudes toward recognition of individual difference is fundamentally incompatible with the good faith and spirit of cooperative undertaking a society needs to function harmoniously, in my opinion.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:36 AM on February 19, 2017 [6 favorites]


both sides do sometimes forget to treat others like flesh and blood, feeling and experiencing human beings with distinct histories, capabilities, and points of view.

McCorvey’s former lawyer, Sarah Weddington, said, “All Jane Roe ever did was sign a one-page legal affidavit.”

Yup.

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posted by Halloween Jack at 8:29 AM on February 19, 2017


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