A blatantly illegitimate law enacted in Texas and with a case over the Mississippi statute that would reverse the historic ruling that defined abortion as part of a woman’s constitutional right to privacy heading toward a stacked US Supreme Court, there is a renewed focus on which is better equipped to make deeply personal decisions about bearing children, female citizens or the government.
Norma McCorvey, the anonymous Texas woman whose unwanted pregnancy led to her becoming the plaintiff the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, died of heart failure on February 18, 2017, at the age of 69.
Considered too divisive and unpredictable by many in the pro-choice movement, McCorvey stunned the world in 1995 when she switched sides to crusade against her own case, as an anti-abortion firebrand.
When McCorvey came out against abortion in 1995, it represented a stunning symbolic victory for abortion opponents: “Jane Roe” had gone to the other side.
For the remainder of her life, McCorvey worked to overturn the law that bore her name.
But it was all a lie, said McCorvey in a documentary filmed in the months before her 2017 death, claiming she only did it because antiabortion groups including Operation Rescue paid her to advocate their position.
“I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say,” McCorvey said in AKA Jane Roe, which is streaming on Hulu. “It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.”
In what she describes as a “deathbed confession,” a visibly ailing McCorvey restates her support for reproductive rights in colorful terms: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”
The disclosure that McCorvey was exploited “proves once again that the overly funded anti-choice minority has an outsized voice in our prochoice reality. That is why the fringe anti-choice groups have had to resort to paying people to get their message out there. This is an overwhelmingly prochoice country, and any ploy to suggest otherwise is a sham,” said Heidi Sieck, CEO of www.voteprochoice.us. “Reproductive freedom affects everyone, and it’s a foundational issue about power, privacy from government overreach, and individual autonomy. It is about real people being able to access affordable, safe and legal reproductive health care services.”
“However, the extremist anti-choice movement has made a thirty-year investment into a legal infrastructure and misinformation campaign that has successfully blocked access to abortion for millions of Americans – paying off ‘Jane Roe’ is a just a piece of that puzzle,” said Sieck. “This work has been done by a small but vocal group of anti-choice activists who do not represent the prochoice majority’s views on abortion rights; over 70% of American voters support reproductive freedom, and nearly two-thirds of Americans believe politicians should stop blocking access to reproductive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no question that our city, state, and federal representatives should reflect that.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a US-based reproductive health non-profit, the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 people in countries that prohibit abortion altogether or allow it only in instances to save a woman’s life, and 34 per 1,000 people in countries that broadly allow for abortion, a difference that is not statistically significant.
“Regardless of whether abortion is legal or not, people still regularly end their pregnancies,” said human rights advocate Lisa McCormick. “When governments restrict access to abortions, people are compelled to resort to clandestine, unsafe abortions, particularly those who cannot afford to travel or seek private care.”
In contrast to a legal abortion that is carried out by a trained medical provider, unsafe abortions can have fatal consequences. So much so that unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide and lead to an additional five million largely preventable disabilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Access to safe, legal abortion is essential to protecting women’s lives and health,” said McCormick. “Every person has the right to decide freely and responsibly – without discrimination, coercion and violence – the number, spacing and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.”
“Access to safe abortion protects women’s and girls’ health and human rights but nearly 45 percent of all abortions worldwide were unsafe,” said McCormick. “Clearly, too many people, from world leaders to grassroots activists, are not standing up for sexual and reproductive health and human rights. Women’s sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from torture, the right to health, the right to privacy, the right to education, and the prohibition of discrimination.”