Thirty-two years after her case–Roe v. Wade–legalized abortion in the United States, the woman known as “Jane Roe” is petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse its decision.
Norma McCorvey’s quest to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling began two years ago in Dallas when her lawyers at the Justice Foundation filed a petition seeking a reversal. After setbacks at a federal district court in Texas and before a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, McCorvey’s petition reached the Supreme Court last week, just in time for the 32nd anniversary of the Roe decision itself.
McCorvey joined more than 30 post-abortive women at the steps of the Supreme Court last Tuesday to make her plea. “I have a great hope in my heart and a prayer on my lips that Roe v. Wade will be overturned,” the 57-year-old McCorvey told HUMAN EVENTS. “I want it to be overturned so abortion will fall back on all the 50 states, and they can make their own decisions.”
Her attorney, Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation, said he is hopeful the arguments presented in McCorvey’s petition will convince at least four Supreme Court justices to hear the case. Parker told HUMAN EVENTS that McCorvey’s petition isn’t the first to present a Rule 60 challenge–a petition filed by the original plaintiff–but it is unprecedented because both McCorvey and Sandra Cano, the “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, support a reversal. (Doe is the companion case to Roe, also decided Jan. 22, 1973.)
McCorvey told HUMAN EVENTS that as a 25-year-old self-described “flower child” in 1973 she really had no idea what the Supreme Court’s decision meant for millions of women who were given the legal “right” to terminate their pregnancies. She said her attorneys at the time–Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffey–misled her about the implications of the case. McCorvey went to them seeking an abortion, and ended up legalizing abortion throughout the United States. (Her own baby was given up for adoption.)
“What I had been told in 1969 and 1970 by the attorneys was that it would be up to the woman to decide if she wanted to terminate her pregnancy,” McCovery recounted for HUMAN EVENTS. “But what I saw in abortion clinics was coercion. Women were being brought by their parents and their boyfriends, and they were saying, either have the abortion or don’t come home.”
After becoming a Christian in 1995, McCorvey was approached by Parker, who told her that as the original plaintiff in Roe she could file a Rule 60 motion seeking to have the decision overturned based on scientific discoveries and factual evidence that wasn’t available three decades ago. Her petition to the Supreme Court consists of 5,347 pages of testimony from post-abortive women, medical and psychological experts, and former abortion clinic employees. Parker told HUMAN EVENTS that this evidence should convince the court to at least hear McCorvey’s appeal, and hopefully win the support of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, two Reagan appointees who in the past have supported the Roe v. Wade decision creating a “right” to abortion.
McCorvey’s case is based on the 1997 precedent of Agostini v. Felton, a Rule 60 appeal from a plaintiff who questioned the court’s 1985 decision in Aguilar v. Felton, which disallowed public school teachers from teaching in parochial schools. In that case, the court reversed itself.
So far, however, a federal district court in Texas and the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals have rejected McCorvey’s arguments. But Parker said that was to be expected. Along the way, he won a modest endorsement from 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones, who wrote: “[I]f courts were to delve into the facts underlying Roe‘s balancing scheme with present-day knowledge, they might conclude that the woman’s ‘choice’ is far more risky and less beneficial, and the child’s sentience far more advanced, than the Roe court knew.”
At a minimum, Parker and McCorvey want to the Supreme Court to grant a hearing that would look into the evidence they have gathered.
Today, not only do nearly all states provide for the care of unwanted babies, but the stigma of being an unwed mother has also disappeared, they argue. They also accuse abortion clinics of doing a poor job of counseling women about their decision. Among the problems cited in the petition: no significant doctor-patient relationship between the abortionist and the woman who undergoes an abortion, a lack of information given to women about the procedure and inadequate health standards.
Planned Parenthood’s national office in Washington didn’t respond to HUMAN EVENTS’ request for comment. But Steven Emmert, president of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, said the descriptions of abortion clinics in McCorvery’s petition do not reflect the operations at the 150 independent providers who belong to his coalition. “While I can’t speak to these women who have testified, our clinics do everything they can to provide women with the information they need to make a decision that she’s going to be comfortable with,” said Emmert.
While McCorvey waits to hear if the Supreme Court will hear the case–a decision could be months away–she said she plans to continue counseling pregnant woman through her Crossing Over Ministry, as well as traveling globally to tell her story. “I think that once Middle America understands that abortion really hurts women, they will have a better conscience about it,” she said.