Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, died Saturday at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Texas. She was 69.
Journalist Joshua Prager, who was reportedly working on a book about Roe v. Wade, confirmed that McCorvey died of heart failure, according to The Washington Post.
McCorvey was dealing with abuse, addiction and an unwanted pregnancy when she filed suit in 1970 as the anonymous plaintiff “Jane Roe” to battle for her right to an abortion. She never actually had an abortion ― the child she gave birth to in 1970 was adopted ― but she went on to fight for reproductive rights until the decision was handed down in 1973.
The Huffington Post’s Jenavieve Hatch reports:
McCorvey became a pro-choice poster child, working for women’s centers in Texas and California in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. But in 1995, Operation Rescue, a Christian group focused on making abortion illegal, moved in next door to the Dallas abortion clinic where she worked. According to The New York Times, McCorvey bonded with members of the group over time, and was baptized in August of that year. Since then, she has been an ardent pro-life activist, and in 1998 she fully converted to Catholicism.
Since Roe v. Wade, some 50 million legal abortions have been performed in the United States, though state and federal laws have imposed a range of restrictions on abortions and other reproductive rights.
McCorvey remains a divisive American character who’s been the subject of two autobiographies, several films and some great reporting.
Prager’s profile on her for Vanity Fair paints a picture of an “accidental activist” who struggled through three pregnancies and trouble at home before she took on the job of being one of the country’s most infamous plaintiffs.