Here's What Really Happened To The Baby From Roe V. Wade

Whatever happened to the baby in the Roe v. Wade case? The landmark 7-2 decision affirmed legalized abortion in the United States when it was rendered on January 22, 1973. The lawsuit was filed by "Jane Roe" (an alias to protect the plaintiff's identity) in 1970 against Henry Wade, then the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, where Roe lived. It challenged a state law that criminalized abortion except in cases where a mother's life was endangered. Roe purported that the current rule impacted her "right to privacy," protected under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and 14th Amendments (from Oyez). Before this case, abortion had been illegal throughout most of the United States since the 19th century, said Exceptions included New York, for example, which legalized the procedure in 1970, according to the The New York Times, followed by Hawaii, Washington, and Alaska. 

The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and on that day in 1973, the court agreed that a women's right to choose abortion was protected by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Still, despite the legislation, legalized abortion is still controversial, and many states have either created restrictions around the procedure, or are in the process of doing so. What many don't realize, though, is that the case that started the debate never ended with an abortion. Roe, now identified as Norma McCorvey (pictured above), gave birth to a baby girl while the lawsuit lingered — and now the child is all grown up (from The Atlantic).

The Roe baby speaks out

Dallas waitress Norma McCorvey started her lawsuit in March of 1970. By the time the case settled, that baby, sometimes referred to as "the Roe baby," had been born and adopted. Joshua Prager, author of "The Family Roe: An American Story," (release date: September 14, 2021) tracked her down in 2011. The baby was Shelley Lynn Thornton. She found out about her legacy, but kept the secret within the family (from The Atlantic). Shelley was born on June 2, 1970 in Dallas, and was adopted by Ruth Schmidt and Billy Thornton. She always knew about being "chosen," as Schmidt described it. The family moved often and the couple's relationship soured, with Billy leaving when Shelley was 10. 

Shelley discovered her mother's identity after McCorvey started looking for her in 1989. McCorvey had given birth to two other children who were adopted and, while she knew them, she had few details about the little girl now named Shelley, according to Yahoo! News. The National Enquirer found Shelley and told her the truth, but did not name her in its 1989 article about the case. At 20, Shelley became pregnant and while she had the baby, she felt that abortion should never be "a government concern," as quoted by NBC. The 51-year-old now lives in Arizona and is the married mother of three children. She decided to tell her story because "secrets and lies are, like, the two worst things in the whole world. I'm keeping a secret, but I hate it," quoted People from the book excerpt.