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Plaintiff Roe v Wade was paid to activate abortion: FX doc

When Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in the landmark Roe v. Wade case, spoke out against abortion in 1995, she stunned the world and represented a huge symbolic victory for opponents of abortion: “Jane Roe” had passed to the other side. For the rest of his life, McCorvey worked to overturn the law that bore his name.

But it was all a lie, says McCorvey in a documentary filmed in the previous months his death in 2017claiming she only did it because she was paid by anti-abortion groups, including Operation Rescue.

“I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they put me in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I would say,” she says in “AKA Jane Roe,” which airs Friday on FX. “It was all just an act. I did it well too. I’m a good actress.”

In what she describes as a “deathbed confession,” a visibly ill McCorvey reaffirms her support for reproductive rights in colorful terms: “If a young woman wants an abortion, I don’t mind. That’s why they call it choice.

Norma McCorvey in a scene from the FX documentary “AKA Jane Roe”.

(FX)

Arrived in an election year as Supreme Court considers high-profile abortion case with the potential to undermine Roe vs. Wade and several states across the country have imposed what is called “heartbeat lawseffectively banning the procedure, “AKA Jane Roe” is likely to provoke strong emotions on both sides of this eternal front of culture wars.

Director Nick Sweeney says his goal wasn’t necessarily to stir up controversy, but to create a fully realized portrayal of a flawed and compelling woman who changed the course of American history but felt she was being used as a pawn by both sides in the debate.

“The center of the film is Norma. That’s what I really want people to take away from the film – who is this enigmatic person at the center of this very controversial issue,” he says. “With a problem like this, different players may be tempted to reduce ‘Jane Roe’ to an emblem or a trophy, and behind that is a real person with a real story. norma was incredibly complex.”

Sweeney began making the film in April 2016, frequently visiting McCorvey in Katy, Texas. At first, he says, she was reluctant, “but when she realized I wasn’t involved in the abortion debate, she was very happy to open up.” During their time together, McCorvey recounted the details of her difficult upbringing – marked by abuse, neglect and a stint in a reform school – a turbulent personal life, including a short teenage marriage. duration and decades-long relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez.

“I thought she was extremely interesting and enigmatic. I liked that her life was full of these fascinating contradictions,” says Sweeney, who has also interviewed figures close to McCorvey, including attorney Gloria Allred and Rob Schenck, evangelical minister and former head of Operation Rescue.

McCorvey comes across as funny, sharp and unfiltered, with a broad performative streak. She narrates lines from “Macbeth” and jokes, “I’m a very glamorous person – I can’t help it, it’s a gift.”

The documentary includes scenes of McCorvey on election night 2016 – months before he died of heart failure aged 69 – expressing his support for Hillary Clinton. “I would like to know how many abortions Donald Trump is responsible for,” muses McCorvey. “I’m sure he’s lost count, if he can count that high.”

“She had a kind of sly wit,” Sweeney says, recalling the many hours he spent with her at Katy, shopping for donuts or sitting in a park, where she made him pick magnolia blossoms.

But there is also great sadness, especially around her relationship with Gonzalez, which she gave up after her conversion in 1995.

Norma McCorvey on a summer afternoon in Smithville, Texas.

Norma McCorvey on a summer afternoon in Smithville, Texas.

(Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Corbis)

The film explores one of the great ironies of McCorvey’s life story: although she helped make abortion legal, McCorvey herself never had an abortion. She was pregnant with her third child when, in 1970, she signed an affidavit challenging Texas laws that banned abortions except to save a mother’s life. As a poor, uneducated woman with no means to travel out of state or obtain illegal proceedings, she was an ideal plaintiff for the attorneys who tried the case, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee.

“I know how I felt when I found out I was pregnant and I wasn’t going to let another woman feel that way – cheap, dirty and no good,” McCorvey says in the film. “Women make mistakes, and they make mistakes with men, and things happen. It’s just Mother Nature at work. You can’t stop it. You can’t explain it. It’s just something that happens.

But it would be three years before the Supreme Court issued a verdict, by which time McCorvey had long since given birth to a daughter who was placed up for adoption. (Her second child had also been placed for adoption; her first child was raised by her mother.) McCorvey recalls learning of the decision in the newspaper and receiving a phone call from Weddington saying they had won. . “Why would I be excited? I had a baby, but I gave it away. This is for all the women who will come after me.

“AKA Jane Roe” also shows how McCorvey was held at bay by abortion rights supporters. After a decade of anonymity, McCorvey went public in the 1980s and began giving interviews, and was featured in the Emmy-winning TV movie, “Roe vs. Wade,” starring Holly Hunter. But for leaders of the abortion rights movement, the inconsistencies in her story – for a time McCorvey claimed she got pregnant from rape, then said she lied – and the lack of polish made it a less-than-ideal poster for the cause.

In 1995, she worked at a Dallas abortion clinic that was the target of protests by Operation Rescue, a militant organization known for its extreme tactics such as blocking clinics (the group is now known as Operation SaveAmerica). She struck up an unlikely friendship with Flip Benham, an evangelical minister, who baptized her in a backyard swimming pool, and for the next two decades of her life she was a present at anti-abortion protests and in documentaries. In 1998, she released a second memoir, “Won by Love”, detailing her change of heart on abortion. As Benham remembers with obvious pride as “AKA Jane Roe”, McCorvey also participated in protests where he burned the LGBT flag and the Koran.

Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey says she was a hireling, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the anti-abortion movement, at least partially corroborates the allegations, saying she was paid off for fear “she’ll go back to the other side,” he says in the film. “There were times when I wondered: is she playing with us? And what I didn’t have the courage to say is that I know very well that we were playing it.

Schenck expresses regret for targeting McCorvey, someone whose vulnerabilities could be easily exploited, he says. “What we did with Norma was very unethical. The template is in place.

‘Aka Jane Roe’

Or: Effects
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Rating: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17)