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'Roe' plaintiff was paid to switch sides

May 22, 2020

In a new documentary, the woman at the center of the court case that legalized abortion in the US has said she was paid to turn against the ruling.

This image released by FX shows Norma McCorvey from the documentary "AKA Jane Roe."
Image: picture-alliance/AP/FX

The plaintiff in the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the US, Roe v Wade, said she later received money from anti-abortion groups to turn against the landmark ruling, according to a new documentary being released in the US on Friday.

In the film, Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff known as "Jane Roe" in the case, says that she was lying when she switched her support to the anti-abortion movement and publicly denounced the landmark ruling.

Director of the film "AKA Jane Roe" Nick Sweeny met with McCorvey several months before her death in 2017 at the age of 69. In the film, McCorvey reveals the truth in a moment she describes as a "deathbed confession."

"I think it was a mutual thing," she says. "I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say."

"It was all an act?" Sweeny asks McCorvey.

"Yeah, I did it well too. I am a good actress — of course, I'm not acting now," McCorvey answers.

Read more: Abortion in the US: Supreme Court hears case key to future

Conflicted feelings about abortion

Sweeney said he shot hundreds of hours of film in the last year of McCorvey's life, and that he hoped the documentary allowed her to tell her own complex story.

Joshua Prager, who spent eight years working on a book about McCovey, due to come out next year, said McCovey held conflicting feelings about abortion and that she had made her living giving speeches and writing books for both sides of the debate.

She was, however, consistent about supporting abortion through the first trimester, he said.

Changing sides 20 years later

McCorvey went to court in 1969 to fight laws against abortion after she was denied the procedure in the state of Texas. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court, where it was decided on January 22, 1973 that a woman had the legal right to terminate a pregnancy.

But in the 1990s, McCorvey became an outspoken opponent of abortion when she converted to evangelical Protestantism and later Catholicism.

The right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade continues to deeply divide the American public, where many people oppose it on religious grounds.

Recently, some states have succeeded in passing laws that severely limit access to the procedure, developments that are likely to once again be taken up by the Supreme Court.

kp/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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