NPR had a story on the Texas legislature passing what journalists usually call “sweeping abortion restrictions.” Let’s look at a big chunk of the story right at the top:
“What this does is completely reshape the abortion landscape in the state,” says Elizabeth Nash, who follows state issues at the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group. “With this legislation, Texas will become one of the most restrictive states in the country. And Texas really matters.”
First, Texas is the second most populous state in the nation, with four major cities and 5.5 million women of reproductive age. It also has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.
And symbolically, Texas was home to Jane Roe, whose fight for a legal abortion went all the way to the Supreme Court — which decided in 1973 that abortion is a woman’s fundamental right under the Constitution.
Under the new law, abortion doctors must get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; abortion clinics must upgrade to surgical centers; abortion-inducing pills can only be taken when a physician is present; and abortions would be banned 20 weeks after fertilization.
Well, kudos to NPR for actually describing these “sweeping” restrictions, however briefly. But did you catch that bit about Jane Roe? Texas matters because Jane Roe came from here? And hers was the case that decided that legalized abortion is a fundamental right under the Constitution?
And then on we are to the next line without mentioning some crucial information.
I like the idea of including “Jane Roe” and her symbolism in a story about Texas’ move to change the abortion regime in that state. She might be the perfect symbol of what this battle in Texas says about our country’s messy views on abortion. But, as the reader who submitted this story put it:
What a way to spin. How convenient to ignore that “Jane Roe” was the assumed name of Norma McCorvey, who is now outspokenly pro-life, and who has made it clear that she was used by pro-abortionists who wanted to push their agenda. Even Wikipedia notes this.
It’s amazingly convenient and misses the real, the ultimate symbolism of this Texas woman. There are even religion ghosts all over her story. Let’s go ahead and look at the portion of her Wikipedia entry dealing with her views on abortion:
At a signing of I Am Roe, McCorvey was befriended by evangelical minister Flip Benham. She was baptized on August 8, 1995, by Benham in a Dallas, Texas, backyard swimming pool, an event that was filmed for national television. Two days later she announced that she had become an advocate of Operation Rescue’s campaign to make abortion illegal.
McCorvey’s second book, Won by Love, was published in 1998. She explained her change on the stance of abortion with the following comments:
I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!
I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.
Even before her conversion, she had extremely negative things to say about how some people in the abortion rights movement had used her.
Jane Roe is a real person, much more than a pawn to be used to advance an agenda or particular journalistic narrative. Yes, Roe v. Wade was decided based on her story. Her story now includes quite a bit more information. She wasn’t just refused an abortion. She gave birth to a child for whom she made an adoption plan. She converted not just to Christianity but to its pro-life movement as well. Yes, Jane Roe herself now believes unborn children should be protected by law. You simply can’t leave that out of a story.