(1947 - living) U.S.A.
Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. Norma Leah Nelson; and Jane Roe), was the plaintiff in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, which led to the legalization of abortion in America. McCorvey, who was 21 when the case was filed and was on her third pregnancy, never had an abortion and gave birth to a girl, who was given up for adoption.
McCorvey went public with her identity in the 1980s and wrote a book about her life titled I Am Roe: My Life, Roe v. Wade, and Freedom of Choice. In the book, McCorvey, a ninth-grade dropout, describes a tough life, explaining that she suffered physical and emotional abuse as a child, spent some time in reform school in Gainesville, Texas, and was raped as a teen-ager. She was later beaten by a husband whom she married at age 16. She also tells of her alcohol and drug abuse, and experiences with lovers of both sexes.
Her first child, Melissa, was raised by her mother; her second child was raised by the father, and the couple agreed that McCorvey would never contact her. She drifted through a series of dead-end jobs, including work as a bartender and a carnival barker. Once she went public with her story, she worked in several clinics where abortions were performed and did some public speaking, garnering publicity and a little bit of celebrity.
But in 1995, it all changed. McCorvey was working at a Dallas women's clinic when the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue moved its offices next door. Initially, McCorvey hurled insults at the protesters. Benham, an evangelical preacher, began discussing Christianity with McCorvey.
She converted to Christianity and was baptized by Benham in a swimming pool at a Dallas home. The baptism was filmed for national television. Anti-abortion activists immediately heralded her conversion.
In a 1997 CNN interview, McCorvey blamed violence at women's clinics on the abortion-rights camp. A book McCorvey co-wrote about her religious conversion titled Won By Love. Abortion-rights advocates were not so happy about the change of heart by the woman who symbolized a woman's right to have an abortion.
But no matter what either side says, 25 years after Roe vs. Wade, Americans remain divided over the issue of abortion. Norma McCorvey may have changed her mind, but the political debate over abortion continues.