Norma McCorvey died from heart failure last Saturday in Katy, Texas. She was 69. In so many ways she lived a tragic and confused life.
Robert D. McFadden wrote in the New York Times: “Her early life had been a Dickensian nightmare. By her own account, she was the unwanted child of a broken home, a ninth-grade dropout who was raped repeatedly by a relative, and a homeless runaway and thief consigned to reform school. She was married at 16, divorced and left pregnant three times by different men. She had bouts of suicidal depression, she said.”
“Ms. McCorvey gave up her children at birth and was a cleaning woman, waitress and carnival worker. Bisexual but primarily lesbian, she sought refuge from poverty and dead-end jobs in alcohol and drugs.”
Ms. McCorvey was also Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade.
After reading about her life story, I felt so sorry for all the things Ms. McCorvey suffered during her lifetime. In 1970 two young lawyers in Dallas, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, used Ms. McCorvey to challenge Texas laws that prohibited abortion except in the case of saving the mother’s life. According to Ms. McCorvey, she signed some paperwork for the lawyers thinking she would be able to get an abortion. She said she never read the paperwork, and that was the extent of her participation in Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Roe on January 22, 1973 legalizing abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote the opinion saying, “The word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn….” Mr. Blackmun did cede to the states the right to regulate abortions after the fetus gains the capability to survive.
Since the ruling Americans have killed more than 50,000,000 babies inside and outside of the womb based on a mother’s decision to abort her baby. Roe v. Wade may be the most contentious case decided by the Supreme Court. It’s at least as contentious today as it was 44 years ago. Pro-abortion forces contend for the personal and political rights of an expectant mother, and those against abortion contend for the lives of babies in wombs.
A baby’s heart begins beating around 3 to 4 weeks after conception. When do babies in the womb feel pain? Research on this question has been highly debated by doctors and scientists on both sides of the abortion debate. Some say babies feel pain as early as 8 weeks. Others say babies do not feel pain until the third trimester. Dr. Maureen Condic, Director of Human Embryology instruction for the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, testified before Congress in 2013 that “There is universal agreement that pain is detected by the fetus in the first trimester. The debate concerns how pain is experienced; i.e., whether a fetus has the same pain experience a newborn or an adult would have.”
Ms. McCorvey became a Christian in 1995 and changed her views about abortion, even blaming abortion rights advocates for violence at abortion clinics. From then on Ms. McCorvey became a fervent supporter of the Pro-Life movement.
Regardless of what governments or courts order, every life matters. Ms. McCorvey’s life matters to more than 50,000,000 babies who have died and to millions of mothers who have allowed their babies to live.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, Miss. He can be reached at PJandMe2@hotmail.com.