Roe v. Wade abortion rights plaintiff Norma McCorvey is being remembered for her Christian conversion and pro-life advocacy. She died Feb. 18 at age 69 in a Katy, Texas, assisted living facility of heart failure, the New York Times reported.
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Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the “Roe v. Wade” abortion case, in an undated Reuters interview on her pro-life advocacy.
The mother of three is believed to have never had an abortion herself, the New York Times said upon her death, as she carried to term the pregnancy that was the subject of the court case culminating in Roe v. Wade in 1973. But an estimated 58 million or more children have been aborted in the U.S. since the landmark abortion rights ruling, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
McCorvey professed a Christian conversion in 1995 and became increasingly vocal in her defense of unborn children, petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 to overturn Roe v. Wade because she believed abortion was harmful to women.
Noted Southern Baptist author and biblical scholar Dorothy Patterson thanked God for McCorvey’s conversion and defense of life.
“What we should remember most is that finding Christ turned her from a path of death to everlasting life for herself, and caused her to become a friend of life,” Patterson, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of theology, told Baptist Press (BP). “She spent her last years in arduous pro-life activities trying very hard to undo and redo the earlier decision she had made.
“The conclusion of her life reminds me of that phrase from a popular song, ‘Only what’s done for Christ will last.’” Patterson said. “The tragedy [of Roe v. Wade] led to a legacy of life for Norma McCorvey.”
When the legal battle began in McCorvey’s defense in 1970, she was a 22-year-old divorced expectant mother of two children, one of whom had been placed in adoption and the other being cared for by McCorvey’s mother. McCorvey was five months pregnant and unable to obtain an abortion when she was referred to attorneys who filed her case against Dade County (Texas) District Attorney Henry Wade.
“Norma McCorvey began her life with a series of tragedies and heartbreaks,” Patterson told BP. “As the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, she did carry the burden of being used as a tool to cause the death of millions of babies in the womb. Yet, this overwhelming tragedy drove her into the arms of a loving Savior.”
McCorvey was baptized in a Dallas swimming pool in August 1995 by Flip Benham, who led Operation Rescue Dallas and had shared the gospel with McCorvey as she worked in a Dallas pro-abortion office. She began advocating for life as early as January of 1996, when at the National Memorial Service for the Preborn and Their Mothers and Fathers, she publicly sought forgiveness for her legacy of abortion.
“Jane Roe is dead, but if she were here, she would ask your forgiveness,” Baptist Press attributed to McCorvey in a Jan. 26, 1996 article about the service. McCorvey participated in that year’s March for Life in Washington, and two years later converted to Catholicism.
In her first autobiography I Am Roe: My Life, Roe v. Wade, and Freedom of Choice, in 1994, she wrote of her life as an alcoholic lesbian who had become suicidal after the birth of her third child. She revealed as false the previous claim that her last pregnancy was the result of a gang rape, but wrote that she had been raped repeatedly in her early teens by a male relative and married an abusive man at age 16, whom she divorced. At the time of the 1973 court decision, she lived quietly in Dallas with a lesbian partner, according to her Feb. 19 obituary in The Guardian.
In her second autobiography, Won by Love in 1997, McCorvey detailed her Christian conversion.
Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church (Wesleyan) in San Diego, was present at McCorvey’s first church service after her 1995 baptism, when she visited Metroplex Chapel (Church of the Nazarene) in Euless, Texas. Garlow recalled the experience in a Feb. 18 article in Charisma Magazine. She had been afraid to enter the church, Garlow wrote, for fear of how Christians might treat someone considered the face of abortion rights.
“I introduced her at the end of the service, telling the congregation that ‘Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade had come to Christ and had experienced forgiveness for her sins,’” Garlow wrote. “I explained that she was present in the auditorium. I asked her to stand. She did. The crowd erupted in an extended standing ovation. McCorvey was shocked. She did not expect that.”
Garlow remembers McCorvey for her Christianity and pro-life work.
“During the first half of her life,” Garlow wrote, “she was on the wrong side of history. But that changed when she repented of her sins. She joined ‘the right side of history.’ But more importantly, she now enjoys the right side of eternity.”
McCorvey was born Norma Nelson in Simmesport, La., and is survived by at least one daughter, Melissa, the child of her marriage to Elwood “Woody” McCorvey, the Guardian reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)