Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, spoke last night in Statler Auditorium about her conversion from pro-choice activist to pro-life activist. She was the plaintiff in the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide in the 1970s.
Paul Ibrahim ’06, president of the Cornell Coalition for Life, introduced McCorvey and gave a brief history of her life. After protecting her identity with the pseudonym Jane Roe until the 1980s, McCorvey published the 1994 book entitled I Am Roe: Roe v. Wade and Freedom of Choice. She was a pro-choice activist and worker at an abortion clinic until 1995, when she converted to Catholicism.
She has since started an anti-abortion organization called “Roe No More” and written a second book called Won By Love.
McCorvey opened her speech by thanking Ibrahim and talking about how she came to speak at Cornell, saying she agreed “to share my testimony, not to debate.”
She said she comes from a spiritual standpoint and does not have great legal knowledge. McCorvey said that women should have more counseling before having abortions and gave out her phone number twice in case anyone in the audience needed a pre- or post-abortion counselor.
McCorvey also said that her opinion was no more important than that of anyone in the audience, but that she personally believes abortion should be outlawed.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. It all depends on what you believe,” McCorvey said.
Calling herself a hippie and admitting to drug and alcohol addictions, McCorvey spoke on her youth. She told the audience about being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and running away from home to smoke marijuana. She also mentioned having tried to kill herself numerous times in her life.
“I tried to smoke as much marijuana as I could, and now I have emphysema. I tried to drink as much alcohol as I could, but they kept making more,” McCorvey said.
McCorvey mentioned pro-choice activists and her own pro-choice lawyers multiple times in her speech, saying she thought her lawyers just wanted to legalize abortion in Texas. She also told the audience that she had never met a pro-choice person that liked her.
“[My lawyers] treated me like I was stupid,” McCorvey told the audience.
About the Roe v. Wade case specifically, McCorvey said she had almost nothing to do with the court hearings, which she did not even attend.
More than Roe v. Wade itself, however, McCorvey talked about her experiences working at abortion clinics and, more recently, as a post-abortion counselor. She mentioned three women in particular whose stories had encouraged her to become pro-life. The first woman introduced herself at a pro-choice rally; she had had eight or nine abortions. The second woman wanted an abortion after finding out she was going to have a girl. The last woman had had an abortion at her clinic and later saw McCorvey in a restaurant.
“I couldn’t sit there [in the restaurant] because I knew I had helped her execute her child in utero,” McCorvey said.
After McCorvey’s speech, audience members were able to ask questions via index cards.
Most questions revolved around the change of her abortion stance and her opinion on specific abortion issues. She told the audience that she was against Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, because she is Catholic. She said she felt that many animals were being better protected than pregnant women. She also mentioned that she had never met a woman who had had a “back-alley abortion,” an abortion performed by someone other than a doctor who does not take safety precautions for the mother’s health.
When asked about abortion in the case of rape or incest, McCorvey replied, “It doesn’t make the child any less of a child.”
The audience was filled with equally loud pro-choice and pro-life sentiment. When McCorvey told the audience that the reason she was able to survive was her belief in God and that everyone’s empowerment came from God, she received an “Amen!” from some members of the audience.
Other audience members felt differently about her speech.
“I was excited when I first heard she was coming … [but] I wish she had answered more questions and explained her views more thoroughly,” said Jamie Gullen ’07, the president of Students Acting for Gender Equality. “I was left very confused by her stances.”
Members of CCFL were pleased with the results.
“I think it’s great Cornell got exposed to a pro-life perspective … and witnessed the actual person abortion activists chose to represent the case,” said Ibrahim. “Our job as the Cornell Coalition for Life is to bring the abortion issue back to the forefront … and to get the abortion debate going on campus.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Cornell Political Coalition, the Bioethics Society of Cornell, the Campus Crusade for Christ, the College Republicans, the Cornell Catholic Community, Cornell Advocates for the Family, the Catholic Circle, the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Office of the Vice President for University Communications, the Office of the Vice President for Student and Academic Services and Community Development; the Student Activities Finance Committee funded the event in part.
Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer