About That ‘Jane Roe’ Documentary

By now, everyone and their dog has heard about the documentary by Nick Sweeney called AKA Jane Roe, in which Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, the court case that guaranteed legal abortion in the United States, allegedly gives a “deathbed confession” about her work in the pro-life movement. The story broke on Daily Beast a few days before the documentary aired in an article called “Jane Roe’s Deathbed Confession: Anti-Abortion Conversion ‘All an Act’ Paid for by the Christian Right“. LA Times similarly published an article about it with even more details called “The woman behind ‘Roe vs. Wade’ didn’t change her mind on abortion. She was paid.” Now of course I’ve started making it a policy to wait until after all the facts come out before drawing my own conclusions about anything that interests the media. I wanted to watch the documentary first before I gave my thoughts about it. After watching the documentary, I can say that it was seriously overhyped. As happened with all-woman reboots like Ghostbusters (2016) and Ocean’s Eight, the controversy was being stirred as a way to drum up interest in the film and get people to watch it, and legitimate news outlets were publishing false information about McCorvey’s confession without actually seeing the film for themselves. Or perhaps they did see a screening of it before it aired and couldn’t see past their own bias to what McCorvey was actually saying.

Now, deception has always been a tool of the pro-choice lobby. One recent example is Planned Parenthood finding themselves in hot water after claiming they wouldn’t be seeking help from the president regarding stimulus funds, and then going back on that and actually falsifying documents to receive stimulus funds they were ineligible for. Now the government is going after them to get the money back. There was also an element of deception behind this documentary. According to Sweeney, as reported in the LA Times article linked above, McCorvey was reticent about talking to him, but Sweeney told her he wasn’t part of the abortion debate so she was happy to open up. After watching the documentary, it’s clear that it has a serious pro-choice bias. Pro-life people are painted as dangerous zealots who yell at women, and pro-choice workers are given most of the screentime. But even apart from that, the producers of the documentary have a very strong pro-abortion bias and ties with Planned Parenthood, as reported by Live Action in their article “‘AKA Jane Roe’ producers have strong pro-abortion bias with ties to Planned Parenthood.” So this appears to have been a deception by Nick Sweeney to get Jane Roe to even talk to him.

There are two main reasons this documentary is much ado about nothing: 1) The truth of the moral position on abortion (or the legality of it) doesn’t rest on McCorvey’s opinion of it, and 2) While she did say these things that have been reported, it’s not the whole story. In fact, while she may have said the words that were reported, the wrong implications were being drawn from them.

The moral position on abortion is abortion is immoral (and ought to be illegal) because it kills an innocent human being, and acts of killing innocent human beings are immoral (and ought to be illegal). Just like Charles Darwin recanting on his deathbed doesn’t disprove evolution, and of course this is an urban legend which almost certainly never happened, McCorvey’s “deathbed confession” doesn’t disprove the moral argument for the pro-life position.

But what about the comments she did make? Daily Beast and LA Times both asserted McCorvey’s conversion to the pro-life position was all an act, paid for by the pro-life movement. People on Twitter have been having a field day with this, trying to paint pro-lifers are dishonest (conveniently ignoring the fact that if this was the case, then McCorvey, arguably the most important of pro-choice advocates, was dishonest, too). But what were the statements she actually made? I had the opportunity to interview Fr. Frank Pavone on my podcast Monday, which you can listen to at this link. He knew McCorvey well and helped shed some light on the comments she made in the documentary. McCorvey was a complex individual. She claimed in the documentary that the pro-life movement used her as a trophy, and that it was a mutual thing (she took their money and in return she gave speeches). But of course, nothing McCorvey said indicates that her conversion was an act paid for by pro-life advocates. All she said was she took money in exchange for giving speeches. This is called getting paid for your work.

The worst part is this documentary was released after McCorvey passed away in 2017, when she is no longer able to defend herself. I suspect this documentary is supposed to act as “return fire”, so to speak, after the damning videos by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood profiting off the sale of fetal organs. There were claims Daleiden’s videos were deceptively edited so CMP released the full, unedited versions on-line for anyone to see. Will Nick Sweeney do the same with the videos he recorded of Norma McCorvey? At any rate, listen in to Nathan’s and my interview with Fr. Pavone for even more insight on McCorvey’s character and the statements she made in the documentary.

Matt Yonke, the assistant communication director for Pro-Life Action League, posted a brief response to the claims about McCorvey on his Facebook page. I will end this article with his statement verbatim, posted here unabridged with his permission:

I met Norma McCorvey on a few occasions, and I know a lot about her story, and the people who brought her into the pro-life movement are friends of mine.

Here’s what you need to know.

Norma was a delightful woman. She had her quirks and had a roller coaster of a life, including some really low lows. Lower than most of us will ever know.

When she came into the movement, I can assure you it was not a “Haha! We’ll get her to lie and join our cause!” mustache twirling moment. It was a “Oh my goodness, Jane Roe is talking to us and might join us!” kind of moment.

She got work in the movement, which, as with most work, came with money. But it was not the situation the media is trying to paint of a movement offering a bribe for an opposition figurehead to join them.

What was in Norma’s heart at the time, I don’t know. But I do know that Flip Benham, who brought norma in and baptized her, and who I don’t always agree with in questions of pro-life tactics, is not a con artist. I know that norma later converted to Catholicism, which is not a process one typically undertakes lightly or as a grift.

She said a lot of things over the years. She changed her story to the abortion lobby and changed her story to pro-lifers over the years. Lots of people do that with their life’s narrative.

I have no judgement for Norma. She went through so much and was a very winsome person for it all. God’s mercy will be enough for her.

But the narrative coming out in the news does not at all jive with what I know of the movement and its people from the last 14 years of working in it.

I’m sure this won’t change the minds of those for whom any stick is good enough to beat the pro-life movement with, but it disgusts me to see her being used, again, to promote the abortion industry posthumously.

Take that for what you will.