In FX’s upcoming documentary AKA Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey, more commonly known as ‘Jane Roe’ in the Roe v. Wade case, says that she was paid by evangelical leaders to pretend she was anti-abortion and “ex-gay” to lend credence to anti-abortion causes.
Despite using her experience struggling to find access to abortion services in Texas as the plaintiff in 1973's Roe v. Wade case, which would become the basis for legalizing abortion in all 50 states, by the mid-’90s McCorvey had become a poster child of sorts for the religious right, expressing regret over her involvement in the case and claiming that becoming a born-again Christian had helped her become straight. As recently as 2005, McCorvey spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court in which protesters demanding the court overturn Roe v. Wade. But Nick Sweeney’s upcoming documentary features footage of McCorvey (who died in 2017) confessing that her friendship with anti-abortion crusader and pastor Flip Benham and subsequent “conversion” was at least partially fueled by payments from religious organizations, according to The Daily Beast:
“‘This is my deathbed confession,’ she chuckles, sitting in a chair in her nursing home room, on oxygen. Sweeney asks McCorvey, ‘Did [the evangelicals] use you as a trophy?’ ‘Of course,’ she replies. ‘I was the Big Fish.’ ‘Do you think you would say that you used them?’ Sweeney responds. ‘Well,’ says McCorvey, ‘I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say.’”
In the documentary, McCorvey’s “deathbed confession” is corroborated by Reverend Rob Schenck, who was formerly affiliated with Benham’s anti-abortion organization, Operation Rescue, but has since distanced himself. Schenck says McCorvey was paid because anti-abortion advocates believed “that she would go back to the other side,” if she was not financially compensated to speak out against abortion. And before her death, McCorvey, a former abortion clinic employee and at one time a vocal pro-choice advocate seemed to agree that without the money, she wouldn’t have been instrumental in attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“I’m a good actress,” she reportedly tells Sweeney on camera in regards to her anti-abortion speeches, which she says were scripted by evangelical leaders like Benham. “Of course, I’m not acting now.”
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In 1994, McCorvey published a pro-choice memoir called I Am Roe: My Life, Roe v. Wade, and Freedom of Choice. In 1998, she published a second memoir called Won By Love focused on her religious conversion and dedication to the anti-abortion movement. An upcoming film called Roe v. Wade, starring Jon Voight and Stacey Dash will focus on the conversion, though presumably not McCorvey’s confession that her support for denying safe and legal abortion access was purchased by evangelicals and anti-abortion groups.
AKA Jane Roe premieres May 22 on FX.