In Brief

Woman at centre of Roe v. Wade abortion case took bribe to switch sides

Pro-life groups allegedly paid Norma McCorvey at least $450,000 to defect following ruling

A woman who played a central part in the historic Roe v. Wade US court case confessed on her deathbed that she was paid to speak out against abortion in later life, a new documentary reveals. 

Norma McCorvey - who used the pseudonym “Jane Roe” as the plaintiff in the landmark 1973 case - triggered widespread shock in the 1990s when she disavowed her role in legalising abortion and became a vocal pro-life campaigner.

But in a “deathbed confession” filmed shortly before her death, McCorvey revealed she accepted a series of payments - totalling at least $450,000 (£370,000) - from ultra-evangelical Christian groups to become an anti-abortion activist, The Times reports.

“I was the big fish... I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say,” McCorvey told the makers of AKA Jane Doe. “It was all an act.” 

An anti-abortion group that McCorvey claimed made the payments, Operation Rescue, has denied the claims, reports The Independent. “There is no way her Christian faith or her pro-life beliefs were false,” the organisation’s president Troy Newman said in a statement.

The new documentary chronicles McCorvey’s life from her “troubled, impoverished youth as a sexual abuse survivor” and her marriage at the age of 16, according to the BBC

McCorvey was in her mid-20s and pregnant with her third child when she was referred to two lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who “were on the hunt for a plaintiff to help to overturn Texas’s strict laws, which permitted abortions only to save the mother’s life”, adds The Times. McCorvey “fitted the bill”.

Henry Wade was the Texas attorney general who defended the anti-abortion law.

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The case was taken to the Supreme Court, where justices ruled 7-2 that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy came under the freedom of personal choice in family matters, as protected by the US Constitution - a ruling that effectively legalised the procedure across the nation.

However, McCorvey - who died of heart failure in 2017 at the age of 69 - had long since had her baby and given it up for adoption by the time the court delivered its judgment.

AKA Jane Doe premieres at 9pm on Friday on FX, and is available on Hulu from Saturday.

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