Jane Roe Is Not Our Trophy

After years as an abortion activist, Norma McCorvey (the Roe in Roe v. Wade) befriended a pastor who shared the gospel with her. She believed, was baptized, and now spends her days working tirelessly to overturn the landmark legislation that made her famous. The End.

We love a good conversion story, don’t we? The more depraved the person before knowing Christ, the better. But we sometimes balk at dealing with the messy details of their humanity.

In Vanity Fair’s February issue, Joshua Prager spoke to many in Ms. McCorvey’s inner circle to sort out the incredible story of Jane Roe in “The Accidental Activist.” (Ms. McCorvey declined to be interviewed due to Vanity Fair’s policy on not paying for interviews).

In it, Mr. Prager describes Ms. McCorvey’s abusive childhood, string of lovers and pregnancies, and how she became Jane Roe. After feeling unappreciated by the pro-choice community, she befriended a pastor in 1995, converted to Christianity and seemingly became pro-life. The article leads the reader to believe her pro-life activities, including a 2012 “[Barack Obama] murders babies” political ad, seem to be driven primarily by money and publicity. Her allegiance seems to follow the highest bidder, not any particular conviction.

But upon closer inspection, she wasn’t just the user; she was also the used. Abused and abandoned by her parents, used by attorneys and activists hoping to legalize abortion, paraded in front of celebrity-studded pro-choice brunches, and finally, used as a pithy one-liner by pro-lifers: “Jane Roe is now a Christian who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, who assisted with her 1998 conversion to Catholicism, said there is, “the big temptation on the pro-life side to view this person as a trophy.” Like the unborn children we rightly champion, Ms. McCorvey is not merely valuable only at our convenience. She is a messy human, full of caveats, and nothing like the sanitized and squeaky clean pro-life champion some claim her to be.


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  • Hey Lauren,
    Thanks for your thoughts! I think you’re right to point out that people’s tendencies is to claim people as trophies and spokespeople–thus perpetuating a, “Us, Them” mentality. She is definitely not squeaky clean, yet, I think her story can help show that there isn’t an “Us, Them” when it comes to abortion. In other words, people might assume that she is a virulent proponent of abortion. Her speaking out against abortion adds a complicating factor, and a ray of light. Perhaps those who are struggling with having had an abortion or who are full-fledged pro-choice folks might re-think because of her willingness to say she was used by lawyers and should not be heralded as a trophy for a pro-choice agenda. All this to say, when I think of McCorvey, I don’t see a trophy as much as a possibility for changed minds and hearts when it comes to abortion.

  • Well said, Matt.

    However, part of what dogs the pro-life movement is misinformation. Things like “legitimate rape”, that pregnancy never endangers a woman’s life, and that McCorvey is a pro-life hero make us look foolish and uninformed. It makes pro-choice people continue to (sometimes rightly) believe that we’re ignorant. So when I see otherwise respectable websites write about McCorvey as this shiny pro-life trophy, I know this misinformation continues to spread and makes pro-lifers look dumb.

    I have no problem with articles on McCorvey that at least address the fact that her story is complicated (Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition recently did this).

    Cleary, you know enough about McCorvey’s story that this is not an issue for you.