She was the unexpected protagonist of a landmark Supreme Court ruling that changed a nation by establishing the constitutional right for women to seek an abortion.
McCorvey, who was 22 when Roe v. Wade was handed down, had been living at an assisted–care facility in Katy, TX, and died Saturday from a heart ailment.
According to the Post:
Ms. McCorvey was a complicated protagonist in a legal case that became a touchstone in the culture wars, celebrated by champions as an affirmation of women’s freedom and denounced by opponents as the legalization of murder of the unborn.
When she filed suit in 1970, she was looking not for a sweeping ruling for all women from the highest court in the land, but rather, simply, the right to legally and safely end a pregnancy that she did not wish to carry forward. In her home state of Texas, as in most other states, abortion was prohibited except when the mother’s life was at stake.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the Court ruled 7–2 in favor of the constitutional right to privacy including the choice to terminate pregnancy. Since that ruling, some 50 million legal abortions have been performed in the U.S., The New York Times reported.
In the 1980s, McCorvey reversed her position on the abortion issue, becoming a born-again Christian and outspoken critic, according to The Washington Post.
On the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, Vanity Fair called McCorvey an “accidental activist”:
Young Norma McCorvey had not wanted to further a cause; she had simply wanted an abortion and could not get one in Texas. Even after she became a plaintiff, plucked from obscurity through little agency of her own, she never did get that abortion. McCorvey thus became, ironically, a symbol of the right to a procedure that she herself never underwent. And in the decades since the Roe decision divided the country, the issue of abortion divided McCorvey too. She started out staunchly pro-choice. She is now just as staunchly pro-life.
As Vanity Fair noted, the Supreme Court has gradually become more conservative on the issue, too, dropping to 5–4 in rulings in recent years.
And women’s rights to make their own decisions over their bodies and their health have consistently been under attack by religious extremists and conservative Republicans in recent years.
In a Jan. 5 story, Fusion’s Katie McDonough wrote:
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Thursday that the budget reconciliation bill currently being drafted to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act will also include language to block Medicaid reimbursements and Title X family planning grants to Planned Parenthood.
Last December, McCorvey’s home state of Texas issued a final notice to exclude Planned Parenthood’s 34 affiliate clinics from the state-funded health program. That could compromise access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services for 11,000 low-income people, McDonough reported in an earlier story.
According to that story:
The state slashed family planning grants and redirected funds away from the provider back in 2011, causing more than 80 reproductive health clinics, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood affiliates, to close their doors. Then, in 2013, the state excluded Planned Parenthood from its fee-for-service family planning program—a Medicaid reimbursement system that pays providers a specific rate for services like an office visit or a test—forcing people to seek out other providers and further gutting access.
Earlier this week, Fusion's Nidhi Prakash reported that abortion clinics are facing more violent threats now than they have in the past 20 years. According to a recent study, the number of abortion providers who reported being targeted for “severe violence or threats of violence” nearly doubled from 19.7% in the first half of 2014 to 34.2% in the first half of 2016, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation.