What Norma McCorvey Believed Matters

June 2, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Last weekend, FX premiered AKA Jane Roe, a documentary on Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. Backers of the film touted its most explosive revelation—that McCorvey, Jane Roe herself, had converted to the anti-abortion cause only because she was getting paid. This news made waves, and the attention it received has raised, in turn, a bigger question: Why does it matter at all what she really thought about abortion? The constitutional-law expert Michael Dorf has argued that it doesn’t—or at least that clashing social movements have blown its significance way out of proportion. He contends that when it comes to the ultimate fate of abortion rights, McCorvey’s beliefs matter very little. That may be right legally, but McCorvey—and making sense of her—remains central to the abortion debate, and the reason is obvious: Her story has come to stand in for the greater question of whether abortion is good for women—a question the Supreme Court is likely to rule on by the end of next month.