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Norm McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, surrounded by young people January 27, 2001 during a pro-life rally in Austin, Texas. Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

May 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A documentary that will be released on Friday claims that Norma McCorvey faked at least some of her famous conversion from pro-abortion to pro-life and admitted as much on camera. McCorvey was the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade, the case that imposed abortion on demand across America in 1973,

McCorvey died in 2017 at age 69. She never aborted the child with whom she was pregnant when her lawyers challenged Texas’s abortion law; by the time her case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, her daughter had already been born. McCorvey went on to become an abortion activist and live as a lesbian before becoming a pro-life Christian in 1995 — which the FX documentary AKA Jane Roe now claims was done for money.

McCorvey was baptized by Flip Benham, father of the now famous brothers Jason and David, and ultimately became Catholic. She was confirmed by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

Other titles by AKA Jane Roe’s filmmaker, Nick Sweeney, include My Transgender Kid, Girls to Men, and My Transgender Summer Camp (the “Born in the Wrong Body” series), along with Secrets of the Living Dolls.

Abortion activists immediately pounced on Sweeney’s claim that his upcoming documentary shows McCorvey saying at the end of her life, “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my a–. That’s why they call it choice.” 

Sweeney also says McCorvey supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Pro-life leaders responded with stories of their friendships with McCorvey, who they say was colorful and complicated. In the words of pro-life leader and filmmaker Jason Jones, McCorvey was a “thoughtful, decent, beautiful woman who wrestled some powerful demons.”

“Norma was a very unfiltered person,” veteran pro-life activist Rev. Patrick Mahoney told LifeSiteNews. “No one paid her” to convert.

Mahoney noted that McCorvey had requested that pro-life leaders, not abortion activists, speak at her memorial service.

“For any person to say that the [pro-life] movement used Norma and felt guilty about that is simply untrue and flies in the face of objective facts.”

“She was loved by me and our entire community,” he added. “No documentary can ever take that away.”

Filmmaker ‘took advantage of Norma in the vulnerable last days of her life’

A 2013 Vanity Fair article about McCorvey describes her as similarly complex and having endured abuse and many hardships.

“Norma McCorvey, now 65, has presented a version of her life in two autobiographies, I Am Roe (with Andy Meisler, 1994) and Won by Love (with Gary Thomas, 1997),” wrote Joshua Prager. “In McCorvey’s telling, the story is a morality tale with a simple arc: An unwanted pregnancy. A lawsuit. Pro-choice. Born-again. Pro-life. Peace. The truth is sadder and less tidy.”

Prager interviewed McCorvey’s then-79-year-old former lesbian partner, who called her a “phony”; her mother, who spoke about how she “beat the f—” out of Norma when she was a child; her I Am Roe co-author, who recalled McCorvey’s financial situation as sparse (“When I knew her, she was cashing checks at the 7-Eleven”); and even Flip Benham, who baptized her as she joined the pro-life movement, who said McCorvey “just fishes for money.”

“I knew Norma well, and at one time, she lived with my family in the Wichita, Kansas, area for several months,” commented Operation Rescue president Troy Newman. “I knew her to be a straightforward, down-to-earth woman who was witty and kind. She loved children and adored my own five children.”

“There is no way her Christian faith or her pro-life beliefs were false. The makers of ‘AKA Jane Roe’ should be ashamed that they took advantage of Norma in the vulnerable last days of her life, then released their spurious movie after she passed away when she could not defend herself.”

In a press release, Operation Rescue also addressed the appearance in the documentary of Rev. Rob Schenck, a former pro-life activist who now supports abortion and “accused Operation Rescue of paying Norma McCorvey to say she was pro-life and taking advantage of her.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Operation Rescue loved, respected, and protected Norma, even taking her in to our own families,” responded Newman. “Rob has turned on those he once called friends and is now trying to hurt us. It is very sad that his bitterness and confusion were also exploited by the filmmakers.”

Operation Rescue’s press release added, “It is no surprise that Director Nick Sweeney would come out with outrageous falsehoods about Norma and Operation Rescue to advance his own depraved, leftist, pro-abortion agenda. Because of that, he simply has no credibility.”

Father Pavone: Norma’s conversion was real

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, released screenshots of a text message he says McCorvey sent him on May 24, 2016 about her work with the documentarian. In those messages, McCorvey apparently said Sweeney was paying her for her interviews.

Pavone said McCorvey was sincere, noting that he was her “spiritual guide for 22 years,” spoke with her the day she died, and officiated at her funeral.

Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, tweeted that McCorvey, with whom she was friends for 25 years, was not paid to be pro-life and “how some documentary filmmakers got her to say so is suspicious, at the very least.”

Yesterday, Morana and Pavone released a video over an hour-long discussing the claims of the documentary.

‘The last couple of years of her life were very hard’

Jason Jones, whose works include the famous pro-life films Bella and Crescendo, said he thinks the pro-life movement used McCorvey “unintentionally” but that the pro-abortion movement used her “intentionally.” He also said he’d helped McCorvey pay her electric and water bills a few times over the years, but there was no “quid pro quo.”

“Norma McCorvey did not use Christians and the pro-life movement for money,” said Jones. “If she did, she got a really bad deal.”

The documentary claims that McCorvey was paid $500,000 over the course of 25 years — $20,000 a year, presumably for things like honorariums or help on projects.

“She’s somebody who had a lot of sorrow. You could see it in her eyes. You could see how painful her life was,” said Jones. “There’s a lot that’s public about how hard her childhood was, and then there’s a lot that’s not public about the challenges she faced in life.” 

“People say a lot of things that aren’t true, especially under duress, when they’re sick, when they’re dying, when they suffer from depression, which is what Norma was going through,” he continued. “The last couple of years of her life were very hard.”

Jones said that in 2008, McCorvey was giving a speech to pro-lifers in Chicago when she told the crowd, after staring at them for two minutes, “All of you hate me. All of you hate me. You’re judging me. I can feel it. You hate me.” The rest of her speech was “incoherent,” according to Jones, and he felt after that that she should focus on taking care of herself first.

“She was used by the abortion industry. And the pro-life movement – we were probably not as thoughtful about the challenges she was facing as we should have been, and now even in her death, she’s being used again by the advocates of abortion. Can you imagine that? Even in her death,” he said. 

“So, what I say is, those of us who knew her should tell the truth about her: that she was fun. She was spirited. She had a great sense of humor, as all people who’ve suffered a lot in life do. She had that very special sense of humor that was birthed in pain. She is a woman that carried the most divisive Supreme Court decision in the history of this republic on her shoulders. And both sides were fighting for her. When she was advocating for abortion for the first half of her public life, she made more money than when she was advocating for life. So if you’re picking a side, and you wanna make money, go work for Planned Parenthood.”

Jones concluded: “Norma did struggle with mental illness, especially towards the end of her life. Norma and I had conversations, and I know that some of her struggles went to deep and dark places.”

McCorvey was “very rough around the edges,” pro-life activist Rebecca Kiessling wrote on Facebook. “Norma had serious mental health issues and lots of people in the pro-life movement knew it.”

Other questions about AKA Jane Roe documentary

Some on Twitter asked why Sweeney held onto the footage of such a bombshell claim for several years. 

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who is now a pro-life activist, posted a lengthy statement about the FX documentary on her Facebook page. Johnson urged people to listen to Father Pavone:

Of all of the people who claimed to be friends with Norma McCorvey, the one I saw who loved her completely was Fr. Frank Pavone. Listen to his opinion of this nonsense. Listen to his perspective. I have a personal and private story of a time I saw Fr. Frank put his life on hold to care for Norma in her time of need. He journeyed with her into the Catholic Church. He watched her place all of her faith into the loving arms of Christ. He truly saw her as Norma McCorvey, not Jane Roe. He loved her well. There is a reason that HE was not asked to be in this recent documentary. If he would have been involved, the entire thing would have crumbled. He knew the real Norma. And he knew the sincerity of her conversion. 

Attorney Allan Parker of the Justice Foundation said, “In view of my many conversations with Norma and considering the sworn testimony she provided to the Supreme Court, I believe the producers of the newly-released FX documentary ‘AKA Jane Roe’ paid Norma, befriended her and then betrayed her. This documentary cannot be trusted and the perception it attempts to create around my friend and former client, Norma, is patently false.”