Roe v Wade is famous worldwide as the Supreme Court decision that protects American women’s right to abortion.
But Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of the case, never got the abortion she wanted. Instead, she had the baby and gave her up for adoption.
Now, five decades later, the “Roe baby”, Shelley Lynn Thornton, has gone public for the first time.
Watch: Explaining Abortion To Uncle Barnaby. Post continues below.
In Joshua Prager’s new book The Family Roe: An American Story, Shelley reveals how she felt when she found out who her birth mother was and what happened when they finally spoke.
Norma had a tough upbringing.
Her father Olin was mostly absent and her mother Mary admitted to Vanity Fair that she “beat the f**k” out of her.
Norma spent years in reform school and, even though she identified as a lesbian, got married to a man at 16.
That marriage was abusive and didn’t last long, but resulted in the birth of her first child, Melissa, who was adopted by Mary. Norma later claimed her mother tricked her into signing the adoption papers.
Norma had a second child, Jennifer, who she gave up for adoption.
Then, in 1969, when she was 21, she got pregnant a third time.
She wanted an abortion. She said she had been raped – hoping to boost her chances of getting an abortion – but later admitted the relationship, with a married man, had been consensual.
Norma, who was living in Texas, couldn’t afford to travel to one of the few states where abortion was legal.
Someone pointed her in the direction of two young lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were looking for a test case so they could challenge the Texas abortion laws. Norma fit their needs. But the process moved slowly.
When Norma realised that the laws wouldn’t change in time for her to get a legal abortion, she was furious.
“I was nothing to Sarah and Linda, nothing more than a name on a piece of paper,” she wrote in her 1994 book I Am Roe. “And without them, without their damn legal abortion, my soul was trapped and my body was in jail.”
Seven months pregnant, Norma couldn’t go back to her usual work as a waitress.