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Norma McCorvey, R.I.P.

News comes of the pass­ing of Norma McCor­vey. She’ll go down in Amer­i­can his­tory as “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade fame, the plain­tiff in the land­mark Supreme Court case that has cost more than fifty mil­lion lives so far.

Her deci­sion to become pro-​life, that pro­found change of mind and heart, might not make it into the his­tory books, even as a foot­note. I won’t for­get it, though. Nei­ther should you.

Last year, dur­ing the first Pro-​Life Women’s Con­fer­ence in Dal­las, I went to Mass at downtown’s beau­ti­ful Chapel of St. Jude. The priest say­ing Mass knew McCor­vey from the days when she sought instruc­tion in the Catholic faith. He spoke of her with fond respect, but he spoke only briefly: “Leave her alone. She’s been too much used.”

Those words struck me. Had McCor­vey been at that Mass, I would have wanted to run up and thank her for wit­ness­ing for life in defi­ance of the Court case bear­ing her pseu­do­nym. The priest’s remark made me con­sider that Norma McCor­vey prob­a­bly didn’t need fans as much as she needed friends. I hope she had those friend­ships, refuges in a world of micro­phones and cam­eras and attorneys.

Attor­neys who wanted to loosen abor­tion laws used her in the early 1970s. The attor­neys suc­ceeded, prob­a­bly beyond their wildest dreams. They didn’t have much use for McCor­vey after that.

McCor­vey never had the abor­tion that her case was about. It takes awhile for court cases to make it to the Supreme Court, and by the time Jan­u­ary 1973 rolled around, McCor­vey had given birth and placed her child for adoption.

In 1989, the Pitts­burgh Press included some quo­ta­tions from McCor­vey in its cov­er­age of yet another pend­ing Supreme Court deci­sion on abor­tion. “Asked what she would do when she met [her adopted] child, Ms. McCor­vey replied, ‘I would just say, “Hello, I’m your mama,” and give a hug.’”

Remem­ber her kindly, and pray for the repose of her soul. I don’t think she had much repose in this life. She did have a kind of courage, though, that gave her the energy to speak out long after she could have been for­given for seek­ing seclusion.

Per­haps the best way to memo­ri­al­ize her is not with a mon­u­ment or a plaque on some wall, but with action. She rec­om­mended some­thing specific.

…it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence what reli­gion you are, or how young you are or how old you are, I think if they get up and go to these abor­tion mills, and stand there – and they don’t have to do any­thing, they can just stand there and pray, I think that would make a lot of dif­fer­ence. We have to be seen in numbers.”

Ellen writes about New Hamp­shire pol­i­tics and the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. You can keep inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists like her on the job by hit­ting up Da Tip Jar. Many thanks!

News comes of the passing of Norma McCorvey. She’ll go down in American history as “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade fame, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case that has cost more than fifty million lives so far.

Her decision to become pro-life, that profound change of mind and heart, might not make it into the history books, even as a footnote. I won’t forget it, though. Neither should you.

Last year, during the first Pro-Life Women’s Conference in Dallas, I went to Mass at downtown’s beautiful Chapel of St. Jude. The priest saying Mass knew McCorvey from the days when she sought instruction in the Catholic faith. He spoke of her with fond respect, but he spoke only briefly: “Leave her alone. She’s been too much used.”

Those words struck me. Had McCorvey been at that Mass, I would have wanted to run up and thank her for witnessing for life in defiance of the Court case bearing her pseudonym. The priest’s remark made me consider that Norma McCorvey probably didn’t need fans as much as she needed friends. I hope she had those friendships, refuges in a world of microphones and cameras and attorneys.

Attorneys who wanted to loosen abortion laws used her in the early 1970s. The attorneys succeeded, probably beyond their wildest dreams. They didn’t have much use for McCorvey after that.

McCorvey never had the abortion that her case was about. It takes awhile for court cases to make it to the Supreme Court, and by the time January 1973 rolled around, McCorvey had given birth and placed her child for adoption.

In 1989, the Pittsburgh Press included some quotations from McCorvey in its coverage of yet another pending Supreme Court decision on abortion. “Asked what she would do when she met [her adopted] child, Ms. McCorvey replied, ‘I would just say, “Hello, I’m your mama,” and give a hug.'”

Remember her kindly, and pray for the repose of her soul. I don’t think she had much repose in this life. She did have a kind of courage, though, that gave her the energy to speak out long after she could have been forgiven for seeking seclusion.

Perhaps the best way to memorialize her is not with a monument or a plaque on some wall, but with action. She recommended something specific.

“…it doesn’t make any difference what religion you are, or how young you are or how old you are, I think if they get up and go to these abortion mills, and stand there – and they don’t have to do anything, they can just stand there and pray, I think that would make a lot of difference. We have to be seen in numbers.”

Ellen writes about New Hampshire politics and the life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. You can keep independent journalists like her on the job by hitting up Da Tip Jar. Many thanks!