Abortion activists are questioning this week whether the death of Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, is a foreshadowing of the end of the infamous abortion case.
Ending abortion is what McCorvey wanted and worked for throughout the second half of her life. She died Saturday in Katy, Texas at the age of 69.
Through Roe v. Wade and companion case Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state abortion bans and allowed abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.
Once an abortion supporter, McCorvey later regretted her participation in the infamous case. She became pro-life and a Christian, and worked to overturn Roe v. Wade and protect babies and moms from abortion.
McCorvey’s life and death have left some abortion supporters wondering if her mission will soon be fulfilled.
“Her death comes at a time when that movement, with help from the Trump White House, could achieve many of its long-held goals,” Mother Jones’s Hannah Levintova wrote Saturday after the news broke of McCorvey’s death.
Levintova’s commentary, “’Jane Roe’ Has Died. Abortion Rights Might Not Be Far Behind,” noted how opposition to abortion remains strong forty-plus years after Roe v. Wade. She pointed to the new U.S. Congress and presidential administration, voted in by the American people, as signs that the abortion case could be overturned in the foreseeable future.
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In the month since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, GOP lawmakers have put forward measures aimed at pulling federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Care Act, including its requirement that insurance plans cover contraceptives. They have also introduced bills that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would ban the standard abortion method used by doctors in the second trimester.
A Supreme Court majority that would be open to overturning Roe is becoming increasingly likely, as well. This is something Trump promised repeatedly during the campaign as part of his largely successful effort to win over skeptical evangelical voters. As a candidate, he made four promises to the anti-abortion community: He pledged to nominate anti-abortion justices; defund Planned Parenthood; sign the 20-week abortion ban; and permanently enshrine into law the Hyde Amendment—a 40-year old budget rider that Congress has repeatedly used to bar federal tax dollars from funding most abortions. Assuming that Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed this spring, it may only take the departure of one pro-abortion-rights justice to tip the balance on the court against Roe.
Molly Redden at The Guardian had similar thoughts, writing:
Knowing the end was near, McCorvey gave her friends and fellow activists a mission the day before she died, according to her friend Janet Morana. “She wanted to tell everyone to continue the fight,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life.
But while McCorvey died in a country still shaped by the case that bears her pseudonym, the practical realities of abortion access may more closely resemble the country of her youth than she imagined.
Redden criticized laws that require informed consent before a woman goes through with an abortion. She also criticized laws that ban abortions after 20 weeks, and that require a girl under 18 to have a parent’s permission before having an abortion.
Never mind that these laws have strong public support, Redden implied they are bad because they make it harder for women and girls to get abortions. Such laws “chisel away at” the abortion-on-demand “doctrine” of Roe v. Wade, she argued.
McCorvey previously said Roe v. Wade is based on a lie. She never had an abortion; instead, she made an adoption plan for the child she bore while the case was being argued.
In a video, McCorvey explained her effort to obtain a legal abortion in the 1970s when facing an unplanned pregnancy. However, she never had an abortion and realized that her court case was the biggest mistake of her life.
“Back in 1973, I was a very confused 21 year old with one child and facing an unplanned pregnancy,” she says in the ad. “At the time I fought to obtain a legal abortion, but truth be told, I have three daughters and never had an abortion.
“I think it’s safe to say that the entire abortion industry is based on a lie…. I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name,” McCorvey says.
Remembering McCorvey’s life this week, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life wrote: “This moment can be one more step forward in America’s realization that Roe vs. Wade has never been, nor can it ever be, a solution to our problems, but rather that the only proper response to Roe vs. Wade is the response that Roe herself ultimately had to it.”