How the Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade Died — and What She Confessed to First

Kate Brierley - Author

May 21 2020, Updated 5:57 p.m. ET

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There’s a new show hitting FX this week called AKA Jane Roe, and it centers around Norma McCorvey.

You know who she is, but not by that name — and for good reason. Norma was the anonymous plaintiff in the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade case back in 1973, under the legal pseudonym “Jane Roe.”

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It was this case that led the Supreme Court to rule that the U.S. Constitution protects a pregnant woman's right to choose to have an abortion.

This is a supercharged issue that many people feel strongly about, one way or the other. And it’s still surrounded by controversy between pro-lifers and pro-choicers, decades later. 

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And she famously went from being pro-choice to pro-life.

In an unexpected turn of events, Norma switched stances and joined anti-choice groups in 1995. And she didn’t do it quietly. In fact, there was a TV baptism in a backyard swimming pool and she publicly declared herself newly pro-life, as The Washington Post reports.

She had worked in women’s clinics and suddenly, was working for the opposite side. Norma said it was because of her born-again Christianity and new-found beliefs, even starting an anti-choice group of her own called “Roe No More.”

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But Norma had a shocking deathbed confession.

Norma was literally the face of the pro-choice side of one of the most impactful Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when Roe herself admitted that it wasn’t her faith that made her switch campaigns. She said she was being paid by the pro-life movement to speak out against abortion.

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"I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. And that’s what I’d say," she says. "I did it well, too. I am a good actress. Of course I’m not acting now."

Pro-lifers are denying the claims and calling her a fiercely independent person with a mind of her own.

She says she was pro-choice all along.

Despite advocating with anti-abortionists for years, Norma said she believed in a woman’s right to choose the whole time. 

"If a young woman wants to have an abortion, fine, you know, it's no skin off my ass," Norma shares in the documentary. "That's why they call it choice. It's your choice

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So how did Norma die?

As Norma admits (and is visually evident) in the documentary, she was not in good health during filming and says that she’s sharing this information from her deathbed.

She passed from heart failure in February 2017 in Texas, where she was from. She was 69 years old.

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Prepare to be intrigued but confused by ‘AKA Jane Roe.’

As the Hollywood Reporter puts it, this is “a must-see, yet deeply frustrating, doc.” 

The documentary is said to capture the tumultuous nature of McCorvey's life, which “demonstrates one pitfall after another of using emotional arguments for a policy debate that affects tens of millions of women in every walk of life.”

Catch AKA Jane Roe on May 22 at 9 p.m. ET on FX.

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