On May 22, 1970, lawyers for a pregnant woman identified only as “Jane Roe” filed a lawsuit in federal court in Dallas challenging a Texas law prohibiting abortions except to save a mother’s life.
The case went on to make history. On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision ruled that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
The landmark ruling still stands — but perhaps not for long. A firestorm has erupted over a draft decision by the current Supreme Court leaked to Politico that would overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortions.
The draft decision isn’t final, but both the potential ruling and the leaking of the document are stirring new controversy.
Who was Roe?
“Jane Roe” was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, who as a 22-year-old unmarried woman in Dallas in 1970 wanted to terminate her pregnancy.
McCorvey, who had a 9th-grade education, previously had another child out of wedlock and had given the baby up for adoption.
“I was a woman alone with no place to go and no job. No one wanted to hire a pregnant woman. I felt there was no one in the world who could help me,” she told the Southern Baptist Convention news service in 1973.
After McCorvey realized she was pregnant, she went to see two Dallas attorneys who were seeking a case to challenge the Texas abortion law.
Both Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington were recent graduates of the University of Texas Law School. They filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of “Jane Roe” and a married couple identified only as “Jane and John Doe.”
The suit argued the Texas law was “cruel” and “inadequate,”, especially for poor women who couldn’t afford to travel to other states to get legal abortions.
What happened to Jane Roe?
While her case was pending in Texas, McCorvey gave birth to a daughter, whom she gave up for adoption. When she revealed her identity shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, she said, “I’m glad the court decided that women, in consultation with a doctor, can control their own bodies.”
McCorvey died on Feb. 18, 2017, at age 69 while living in an assisted-living facility in Katy, Tex. In what she called a “deathbed confession,” McCorvey said she had been paid by religious interests to turn against abortion. “I took their money, and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say,”
McCorvey said in an interview filmed for the 2020 FX documentary “AKA Jane Roe.” She added, “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”
What will be happened next?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. confirmed the authenticity of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade in a pending case involving Mississippi’s anti-abortion law and said the court will investigate the leak to Politico.
The draft decision still could be changed. In any case, the Supreme Court’s decision, likely coming this June or July, is expected to be the most momentous ruling on abortion in nearly 50 years. (Copy)