Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade died on Saturday at an assisted-living facility in Texas. The cause of death was reportedly heart-related illness.
Norma was just 22 years old when she made headlines as the plaintiff in the 1970-1973 U.S. Supreme Court case. She was struggling with addiction and poverty when she became pregnant and decided that she did not want to have the child. At the time, abortion was illegal in Texas, with the exception of cases in which a woman’s life was on the line.
After much deliberation, the court ruled 7-2 in her favor. January 22, 1973 became the symbolic anniversary of modern abortion rights, and antiabortion activists have protested the ruling every year since.
This year, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the March for Life, becoming the highest ranking member of the government to do so. In his speech, he alluded to more antiabortion measures from the Trump administration.
Although the results of Roe v. Wade secured abortion rights for many women, Norma was unable to terminate her own unwanted pregnancy. The State of Texas mounted an appeal after the initial ruling, and while the decision stood, the proceedings didn’t end until her child was nearly three years old.
She had given the baby up for adoption long ago and didn’t even know about the final ruling until she read about it in a newspaper.
Ms. McCorvey became a mysterious semi-public figure after her famous trial and eventually gave out her real name to abortion rights groups. For a long time, she served as an icon for the pro choice movement. She surprised everyone when in 1994, she denounced abortion rights and joined an antiabortion group called Operation Rescue.
While her motives and character have since been criticized, Norma McCorvey played an important role in the advancement of women’s rights.
Because of her public struggle, many women have been able to claim their reproductive rights and take control of their lives. Now that those rights are under attack, we need to be more outspoken than ever.
Check out this video about the life of Norma McCorvey:
Featured image via Washington Post.