The Playground of Her Soul: The Story of Jane Roe
Writer’s Note: I have been working, in some manner, in the field of journalism since I was 13 years old. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to interview a plethora of people from all walks of life. In fact, it is the human-interest aspect of journalism that is so attractive to me. I enjoy investing in the lives of others; usually the tables are turned, and my life is the one impacted by those I interview. This happened to be the case when I interviewed Norma McCorvey, a rough-and-tough woman worn by years of bitter hardship yet still so intriguing. I don’t think I will ever forget my time with her. Here is a glimpse into her story and our conversation that first appeared in the January 2008 AFA Journal.
Silence spoke volumes on a playground one hot summer day in Dallas, Texas. Still swings. Motionless merry-go-rounds. No laughing or singing … no children.
The playground was just as empty as her soul had been for the first three decades of her life. But just as a gentle breeze began pushing a lonely swing, the Lord began stirring the heart of Norma McCorvey, also known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in America.
A voice deep inside her kept whispering: “It’s all your fault, Norma. You’re the reason this playground – and playgrounds all across this country – are empty,” she wrote in her autobiography titled Won By Love.
McCorvey’s “Jane Roe” signature on the dotted line of an affidavit made her the plaintiff in a landmark case that forever changed the lives of millions … including her own.
Sliding back to the beginning
In 1969 McCorvey was 22 years old, divorced and pregnant for the third time. All she wanted was to get rid of her “product of conception,” but a state law limited her options. Poor and uneducated, she needed help.
Who better to turn to than two young lawyers who were ready to conquer the world by giving women the right to control their own bodies?
Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee were seeking to overturn the Texas statute that outlawed abortion, and they needed a desperate and believable plaintiff.
Pregnant McCorvey was the perfect candidate, but her story needed to be more plausible. Therefore, McCorvey and the attorneys told the court that her pregnancy was the result of a gang rape. So, she “needed” an abortion, and she deserved the right to choose – at least she thought she did.
“On March 17, 1970, I signed the affadavit that brought the holocaust of abortion into America,” McCorvey told AFA Journal. “And I thought I was doing something right; I thought I was doing something good, and I was wrong.”
But before understanding her mistake years later, McCorvey realized Weddington and Coffee wanted her signature more than they wanted to help her.
She was a tough-talking, abrasive, alcoholic drug user who worked many odd jobs. She was a bartender, carnival barker, construction worker and waitress, later living the lesbian lifestyle.
The attorneys expected McCorvey to fade away. But her signature made her a symbol of women’s rights, although her image was an embarrassment to the pro-abortion movement.
The movement’s leadership had very little to do with McCorvey. For example, she wasn’t even invited to the 20th anniversary celebration of Roe v. Wade. But there was one prominent civil rights attorney from Los Angeles who took notice of McCorvey and encouraged her to be proud that she was Jane Roe.
Gloria Allred befriended McCorvey and thrust her into the spotlight – via interviews, press conferences and public appearances – as often as she could. Allred did her best to make McCorvey shine. McCorvey’s life was consumed by abortion, although ironically, she never had an abortion herself.
Swinging to the other side
McCorvey made a “career” out of working in abortion clinics, one of those being A Choice for Women in Dallas, Texas. She earned six dollars an hour booking appointments. She also assisted in the actual procedures by comforting the women as they had their babies’ lives sucked out of them.
“I would go in the room and hold the woman’s hand, and a lot of times they would just draw blood because they were holding on [so tightly],” McCorvey said. But it was up to McCorvey to remind the women that everything was going to be ok, knowing she was lying.
It was only a matter of time before the lies became too much for her to bear, especially after Operation Rescue (OR) set up shop right beside the abortion clinic where McCorvey worked.
OR is one of the nation’s leading pro-life Christian activist organizations. It was then under the leadership of director Flip Benham, who McCorvey preferred at the time to call Flip Venom.
Assisting Benham was Ronda Mackey, a fiery young mother of two girls, Chelsea and Emily. Benham, Mackey, her two girls, and a host of pro-life activists worked relentlessly to save the innocent lives of the unborn while McCorvey fought hard for the survival of her clinic and her cause. Through it all, the OR gang took every opportunity to befriend McCorvey and love her.
But it was the friendship and love of the Mackey girls that eventually gave McCorvey a new cause for which to fight.
“It was [eight-year-old] Emily who eventually led me to the Lord,” McCorvey said. “She was an evangelist. She was a counselor. She would walk up to women going into the abortion mill and hand out literature and ask them not to go in and hurt their babies.”
More than that, Emily wasn’t afraid to love a woman so unlovable as Jane Roe.
Emily showered McCorvey, whom she affectionately called “Miss Norma,” with hugs and smiles and multiple invitations to church. Having given birth to three children, placing all three for adoption and now working in an abortion clinic, McCorvey had a hard time relating to children, much less being loved by one.
But it was Emily’s Christ-like love that won her over, and McCorvey found herself loving her back. Little did McCorvey know that Emily was introducing her to the Love of her life.
Climbing toward Christ
In July 1995, McCorvey finally accepted Emily’s invitation and went to church with the Mackey family. Jane Roe met Jesus Christ that day.
From then on, she was Roe no more. She was a new creation in Christ. But as with any new believer, sanctification is a process, and McCorvey had a lot of learning, growing and forgiving ahead of her.
“You know at first … I carried a very heavy burden,” she admitted.
But in time she realized, as she wrote in her autobiography, “God did not view me solely through the lens of what I had done or how I had been used. Now, after I had been forgiven, Jane Roe was irrelevant. The woman He loved – the woman He saved – was Norma Leah McCorvey.”
She wrote, “In the first few moments of my conversion, the thought of abortion was not a factor at all. I realized I needed God. That need, and that need alone, consumed me.”
Her need for Christ was evident as she began spending time in the Word and seeking forgiveness from those she had offended over the years.
However, many found it hard to believe that Jane Roe could be saved by grace. Leaders in the pro-abortion movement saw it as a cry for attention. Pro-lifers were skeptical, and the media was all over it.
At times, McCorvey learned the hard way as she came to terms with her new understanding of abortion and tried her best to convey it to the media. How could the woman behind Roe v. Wade now be pro-life? McCorvey wondered the same thing.
“I love the Lord with all my heart and soul … [and] it’s beyond my comprehension that He can take someone like me who was a hippy and a drug addict and a fornicator and all the other stuff that I did and forgive me,” she admitted.
“It was so hard for me to conceive that the Lord had forgiven me – especially after so many children had been killed,” she explained in her book. “But he has forgiven me and restored me,” and put a new song in McCorvey’s heart.
Singing a new song
After her conversion, McCorvey left her job at the abortion clinic and went to work next door for OR.
Since then, McCorvey has traveled to several countries, including Portugal and Uruguay, and to over 40 states sharing her story in a variety of settings ranging from church congregations to civic organizations. She has appeared on major television news shows and has testified before different congressional committees.
McCorvey supports pregnancy resource centers and is working hard to overturn Roe v. Wade in an attempt to fill America’s empty playgrounds with the song of love that her soul now sings.