What you may not know about Roe v. Wade

By Alyse Kiara Deatherage 

Norma McCorvey (AKA Jane Roe), left, with attorney Gloria Allred, right, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 1989. Photo by Greg Gibson / AFP – Getty Images

Roe v. Wade is a historic case in America because it was the case that convinced the Supreme Court abortion should be the decision of the woman thanks to the traumatic story of Jane Roe, also known as Norma McCorvey. However, Hulu recently released the FX documentary AKA Jane Roe where McCorvey talks about what exactly happened in Roe v. Wade and after, and the truth shocked audiences.  

In 1969, abortion was still illegal in most states and McCorvey was pregnant for the second time, this time by a man whom she claimed raped her. The first baby McCorvey had and her parents cared for the child without giving McCorvey a choice. And this second baby was the Roe v. Wade baby.  

McCorvey told her doctor that she was raped and wanted an abortion, but he did not help her because of the law. So, she tried doing an illegal abortion, but ended up leaving out of fear of not surviving the abortion.  

“I went to the illegal underground abortion doctor in an old, run down part of Dallas,” said McCorvey in the documentary. “It was filth and cockroaches. I was scared. A lot of women didn’t make it out. They would bleed to death.”  

Norma McCorvey (left) and attorney Gloria Allred (right) during the Roe v. Wade case. Source: FX’s AKA Jane Roe

McCorvey’s case was brought to the courts by two women who wanted to fight for abortion to be legalized, but needed a pregnant woman’s case to make their claims valid.  

“I went to an adoption attorney and then he told me about these two women, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who had just recently graduated law school, and they were looking for a plaintiff to help them overturn the Texas abortion laws,” said McCorvey in the documentary.  

After hearing what they were hoping to fight against, McCorvey agreed to sign the affidavit and help them in their case, which came to be Roe v. Wade. 

“I know how I felt when I found out that I was pregnant,” said McCorvey in the documentary. “And I wasn’t gonna let another woman feel that way, that cheap, dirty, and no-good.”  

After winning the case, though, the truth and background about McCorvey began to be introduced in the documentary. What happened next, shocked viewers.  

One of the first shocking facts of the case was that McCorvey never actually got an abortion herself. The baby McCorvey wanted to abort during the case was actually born and given up for adoption, because the case took so long and McCorvey did not want to get an illegal abortion, because of the risks they entitled, so she had to have her baby.  

That baby was not the only one McCorvey had and McCorvey wasn’t for abortion because she didn’t want kids, but rather because that kid was supposedly conceived when McCorvey was raped. However, in an interview where she is asked about the rape, McCorvey admits that she was not raped.  

McCorvey was then rejected as the face of abortion by the pro-choice protesters. Not only was McCorvey uneducated and had a background of law breaking and trouble, but she now had lied in the national case that changed abortion history, so they did not want to risk her voice being used in their movement because they saw it as a risk, according to the pro-choice advocates in the documentary. 


Norma McCorvey in FX’s documentary AKA Jane Roe.

The next shocking fact of the case was that, after signing in Roe v. Wade and fighting with the pro-choice advocates, whether they wanted her to or not, McCorvey actually switched sides. She later fought with the pro-life group Operation Rescue to reverse Roe v. Wade and deter women from abortion clinics. She talked about how deeply she regretted her abortion on television and how she discouraged all women from having abortions themselves to support their movement.  

Though this came as a surprise to audience members, the most shocking part is that she did not actually regret her abortion. She wasn’t pro-life, and neither was she pro-choice, and she actually did not care about whether or not women aborted their babies. Even though she spent years fighting for abortion, and then fighting against abortion it was actually all an act. She was given pre-written speeches to say for pro-life advocates and in the end she admits that she only did any of it for money.  

“This is my deathbed confession,” said McCorvey in the documentary in one of her last interviews before her death. “I took their money and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.” 


Norma McCorvey in FX’s AKA Jane Roe.

Much of this case and what happened after shocked viewers of AKA Jane Roe, because many American’s did not know anything about these details of the case. McCorvey fought for abortion, and then against it, in a time where legalizing abortion was terrifying to people. She sparked debates and social change on both sides, as an act, for attention and money.  

For more of the details of McCorvey’s past, the Roe v. Wade case, Operation Rescue, and everything else that happens thereafter and in between, you can view the documentary AKA Jane Roe on Hulu. There is even more to this story that could shock audiences, including McCorvey’s experiences as a lesbian, the radical pro-life protesters and their attempts to reverse Roe v. Wade, and so much more throughout the documentary, and it helps to see a deeper picture of what happened to McCorvey and how Roe v. Wade impacted the entire country.  

All quotes and references here are from the documentary itself. No interview with McCorvey or anyone involved was conducted for this story.