Norma McCorvey had one last chance to speak her mind, and she took it.
The woman behind the pseudonym Jane Roe in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v Wade had a complicated and difficult life both before and after her case legalized abortion in all 50 states. McCorvey found herself on both sides of the issue, first as a pro-choice advocate, who worked in women’s clinics. But in 1995 she became a born-again Christian and worked with anti-choice groups, including one she started called Roe No More that was dissolved in 2008.
A new FX documentary “AKA Jane Roe” challenges the narrative that Roe changed her mind about abortion due to religious realization. In the film, directed by Nick Sweeney, McCorvey offers what she calls a “deathbed confession,” shortly before her 2017 death at 69, in which she claims that the pro-life movement paid her to join their side and speak out against abortion.
“I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. And that’s what I’d say,” she says in the documentary. “I did it well, too. I am a good actress. Of course I’m not acting now.”
McCorvey goes on to say that she still supported abortion rights.
“If a young woman wants to have an abortion, fine! You know, that’s no skin off my ass. You know that’s why they call it choice. It’s your choice.”
She adds, “Roe vs. Wade helped save women’s lives.”
The documentary, which details McCorvey’s life story and fraught relationship with the abortion debate, also offers perspectives from leaders on both sides, including lawyer Gloria Allred and prominent evangelical Rev. Rob Schenck. Schenck, who worked with McCorvey in pro-life organizations and at events, corroborates that she was paid.
“Yes, Norma would be paid,” he says on camera. “At a few points she was on the payroll so to speak. There were so many different elements of the movement that were cutting checks to Norma, I’ll never know how much was actually given to her. … Norma would complain that she wasn’t getting enough money. Her complaints were met with checks. Several hundred dollars to a few thousand at a time. What we called benevolence gifts. There was some worry that if Norma wasn’t paid sufficiently, she would go back to the other side.”
The film shows copies of tax documents outlining the amounts the organizations paid McCorvey.
“What we did with Norma was highly unethical. The jig is up,” Schenck adds.
However, Rev. Flip Benham, leader of anti-abortion organization Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue, by which it is referred to in “AKA”), denies in the film McCorvey was paid in this manner.
McCorvey died in February 2017 of heart failure. “AKA Jane Roe” airs on FX Friday at 9 ET/PT and will be available to stream on Hulu Saturday.