The Shocking Deathbed Confession Of Jane Roe

The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade protects women's right to choose to end unwanted pregnancies. In the nearly 50 years since a 7-2 vote to legalize abortion in the U.S. came from an all-male panel of justices, per Find Law, the decision has remained a divisive one, as pro-choice Americans and pro-life Americans work against each other to try to keep the law in place or to tear it down, respectively.  

But even as hundreds of thousands of people have marched in support of their opinions on abortion laws, it all started with one 22-year-old unmarried pregnant woman in Texas named Norma McCorvey, according to Find Law. To protect McCorvey's identity during the hearings, she was called Jane Roe. 

McCorvey first sued her home state of Texas in 1969 during her third pregnancy, according to Britannica. Abortion was illegal there unless the mother's life was in jeopardy. McCorvey had already given two babies up for adoption. With a third unwanted pregnancy, McCorvey hooked up with two feminist attorneys who wanted to challenge abortion laws, per Britannica.

A Texas doctor joined the lawsuit, saying Texas' abortion laws were "too vague," according to Find Law. The lawsuit argued that the Texas laws infringed on women's 14th amendment rights to "liberty," and to privacy afforded them in the Bill of Rights.

The woman known as Jane Roe eventually joined forces with the pro-life movement

While Norma McCorvey — aka Jane Roe — was the center of one of the biggest cases making its way through the American court system, she gave birth to her third child in 1969 and gave it up for adoption, per Britannica. Abortion was still illegal, after all. 

For several years after the decision, McCorvey went quietly about her life, but The New York Times reported in the early 1980s she surfaced publicly and joined movements that supported abortion rights, speaking to crowds and working in women's clinics. Then, in 1995 she switched allegiances, joining the pro-life movement after meeting and spending time with Evangelical minister and national director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, Rev. Phillip Benham. 

McCorvey embraced Christianity and started speaking out against abortion and pro-choice groups. In 1997 she testified before a Senate subcommittee saying, "I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name," according to The New York Times. 

Norma McCorvey dropped an information bomb before she died

That statement — along with McCorvey's decades of fighting against the abortion rights law she helped to create — is why it came as a shock when she confessed to producers at FX's "AKA Jane Roe" documentary at the end of her life that her pro-life stance was all a ruse. McCorvey said she worked on behalf of the pro-life movement because they paid her. In a YouTube video of what she told FX, she's asked if "they used her as a trophy." She says, "Of course. I was the big fish." 

But McCorvey acknowledged that while she knew the pro-life movement was using her, she was also using them. She said, "I think it was mutual thing. You know, 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." The interviewer asked McCorvey if it was all an act. She said, "Yeah. I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I'm not acting now."

According to The New York Times, McCorvey died of heart failure in Katy, Texas on February 18, 2017. She was 69 years old. "AKA Jane Roe" is streaming on Hulu.