Norma McCorvey Was Once Jane Roe. Not Any More.

What Women Really Think
July 13 2009 10:33 PM

Norma McCorvey Was Once Jane Roe. Not Any More.

Oh, Norma McCorvey. In 1973, she was Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade . Thirty years later, she became the plaintiff in McCorvey v. Hill , a second lawsuit filed to take back and reverse Roe. And on Monday she was ejected for her anti-abortion protest from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. Norma McCorvey stands for all the women whom the argument for reproductive freedom has failed to sway. And perhaps, for the limited emotional scope that traditional feminism has allowed for the abortion experience.

McCorvey wrote in her book, Won By Love , that she changed sides on abortion after staring at a fetal development poster. She says she converted to Christianity in 1995, when the director of Operation Rescue baptized her in a swimming pool. She is "Norma McCorvey, Now 100% Pro-Life!" on the web site of Priests for Life, a group devoted to showing women that their abortions were a tragic error that are at the root of all their unhappiness. The path to atonement lies through persuading other women not to make the same mistake. As McCorvey recounted in an interview with Citizen Magazine,

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I was just down in Mississippi not long ago, and I learned that a woman who was sitting on a nearby bench was post-abortive, times four. So, I went over there to her and I put my arms around her and I said, "Let me tell you something, sweetie. You know those children who you've lost to abortion?" She said, "Yes." And I said, "You know that those children are waiting for you … and they're going to welcome you with open arms. They’re going to say, 'Welcome home, mama. We know that you made a mistake and we forgive you.’ "

She wept a great deal. And I said, "Now let me see a pretty smile on that pretty face" … She said, "Well, I’m just so sorry." And I said, "We were all deceived."

You can question the wisdom of this stance, but don’t doubt its sincerity. I wrote about women who are part of McCorvey’s strand of the pro-life movement, and they are a committed, tight group. They say feminists have closed their ears to sad ambivalent responses to abortion, and while they vastly exaggerate the number of women in their camp, they have a point, historically speaking. But they also go a bridge too far, by swearing to the prevalence of "post-abortion syndrome," which claims a link between abortion and mental illness or suicide that’s not supported by credible research. The American Psychological Association criticized anew last summer the studies claiming to show that abortion is bad for women, citing "severe methodological flaws." Never mind. Norma McCorvey is still showing up to be dragged out of Sotomayor’s hearing, and I’m still getting hate mail from the women who believe her.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

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