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Norma McCorvey Was Truly Pro-Life

Norma McCorvey makes self-described 'deathbed confession' (Screenshot from FX film 'AKA Jane Roe')

Frederica Mathewes-Green, who has long been active in the pro-life movement, e-mailed me about Norma McCorvey. I share this with her permission, though I obscured one name at her request:

I knew her, just a bit. We used to have meetings of pro-life leaders in Washington, and I met her there. So I got to know her a little; she was drawn to me, I think, and always looked at me with a kind of interested curiosity. (There was real intelligence in her eyes, which I think some people didn’t notice.) When we would meet up at a conference or banquet it was easy to hang out together. She seemed to think I had some spiritual wisdom. I bet I have a note from her somewhere.

When Norma first came to one of our meetings she was nervous, but we received her very warmly, of course. That may have taken her by surprise; it seems like pro-choicers expect pro-lifers to despise them, so they’re taken aback when we treat them cordially. (I remember the first time I met [a leading pro-choice figure] –we had agreed to meet for lunch at Kramerbooks. When I found her in the bookstore she was literally shaking. She said it was the first time she had ever met a pro-life person.)

So we embraced Norma, literally and figuratively, and maybe that surprised her. Norma said pro-choice people had treated her very differently. They were glad to recruit her, but they didn’t care for her personally. Her lower-class roots were too obvious. They were glossy, educated upper-class women, and evidently found her embarrassing.

Norma said, and I never forgot it, that the one exception was Gloria Allred. Gloria made time for Norma personally, and helped her in practical ways, talking with her and advising her about more-polished clothing and grooming choices. God bless Gloria for that. But the pro-choice movement in general left her feeling out in the cold. Flip’s [Operation Rescue pastor Flip Benham] kindness to her, normal behavior for any Christian, was dramatically different. He just kept responding in love, no matter what she said to him.

Norma never asked me for money; I never heard her say anything about money. She appeared at our gathering a few times, and never said anything about money.

In fact, that’s the thing that doesn’t fit about this story. When it comes to money, the pro-life movement doesn’t have much. There are a handful of wealthy pro-life people–but there are many more wealthy pro-choice people. Pro-life organizations are consistently poor. I recall seeing a TV show, back in the 90s, that depicted the bad-guy pro-life leader sitting in her spacious paneled office at a beautiful imposing desk. It was hilarious. National Right to Life was the premier pro-life organization, and their office was a set of small rooms–I recall the Washington Post calling it “a warren”–in an old office building. You could probably make an observation about the relative budgets of pro-life and pro-choice organizations just by comparing their DC addresses.

It’s natural that the pro-choice side would have money: it has, not just more wealthy donors, but also a product to sell. Pro-lifers have nothing to sell–on the contrary, money is constantly flowing in the opposite direction, as they give help to pregnant women in need. Among the organizations at that meeting, there was none that could have directed part of their budget to Norma. If all Norma wanted was money, it would have been much more strategic to stay pro-choice.

No one knows the truth except Norma, of course. But my experience of her was that, when we talked privately about her convictions, her conversion to the pro-life position was authentic and deep. And I never heard her say anything about money. In any case, pro-lifers would have been much less able to give her money than pro-choicers could.

UPDATE: Father Frank Pavone, in the comments:

Folks, I was one of Norma’s closest friends for 22 years. Remember that this controversy over her isn’t a matter that’s resolved by anything she said in front of a camera. We led her on a journey of healing, which she voluntarily — in fact desperately — sought and willingly cooperated in, despite the pain and tears she endured by facing up to the wrong she had done. I was by her side during the grief and the joy, the anxiety and the peace, and received her into the Catholic Church. She had a daily passion to spread the prolife message, to counsel women out of abortion (which, interestingly, she even did when she worked in abortion clinics!), and to spread the Faith. In her private hours in the last years of her life, she made rosaries by hand. I helped her communicate with her daughter, find the right assisted living facility, and much more. She told me about the documentary as she was filming for it, for payment by the way, and it wasn’t on her deathbed. I have texts from her about the taping in May 2016 (she died in Feb 2017). The day she died, she repeated something she said often: Promise me you’ll do everything to reverse the Roe decision! The public statement I helped the family craft upon her death reaffirmed her unwavering desire to do exactly that. I conducted her funeral service and preached about how we knew the sincerity and steadfastness of her conversion. See more on our website.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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