Newsletter of the Office of Respect Life
Diocese of Austin
On August 28, 1999, Norma McCorvey spoke at the 5th Annual Respect Life Conference. Norma McCorvey was the Roe in Roe vs. Wade. In 1969 Norma was pregnant for the third time and didn't want to have another baby. She was approached by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee to be the lead plaintiff in an abortion suit filed against the State of Texas. The ensuing case, Roe v. Wade, resulted in the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision which dismantled every state law prohibiting abortion and provided for virtually unregulated abortion through the country. In 1995, Norma became a Christian and repudiated her abortion advocacy, becoming an active pro-life volunteer.
While Norma was at the Respect Life Conference, she graciously allowed me to interview her for our newsletter.
Marianne: How did your change of heart from becoming pro-abortion to becoming pro-life come about?
Norma: I first became aware of my disillusionment with abortion back in 1991. At this time I worked at an abortion clinic in Dallas in what they called advertising. I had to make sure that our phone number and location was included in the area phone books, and other areas of advertising, so women could readily find us. One day a woman came into the abortion clinic and she was very pregnant. She was a least six months pregnant. I couldn't understand why this woman was coming to the clinic when she was so far along in her pregnancy. Up to now, all the women whom I had seen were in their first or early second trimester. The doctor at the clinic who aborted children also delivered babies. I thought maybe she came to see the doctor about delivering her baby. When she said that she was there for an abortion, I continued to press her about why she had waited so long. She told me that she found out that she was pregnant with a baby boy, but that she wanted a girl. Her opinion was why have a child if the baby isn't going to be a girl? I was astounded by this attitude. I had supported abortions up to now because we were helping women in desperate situations, or who had gotten pregnant by accident. Now I was faced with the fact that a woman was deliberately killing her baby because he was the wrong sex. If the baby was a girl, she would be born; if the baby was a boy it would be aborted. I was baffled and confused by this attitude. I started to question her more about her logic. I just really needed to understand; however the abortion doctor thought I was annoying this woman. He told me to go home because I wasn't supposed to argue with the women who came in to have an abortion or question their decision to abort. I went home. I was very depressed and angry. I started pulling down and throwing out all the pro-abortion items in my apartment.
Marianne: Were other things happening in your life that made you question the abortion philosophy?
Norma: Yes, several things happened at this time that all played a part in my conversion. I had moved from my first apartment, and soon after, coincidentally, Operation Rescue moved into my old apartment near the abortion clinic. (Operation Rescue would hand out literature to women who came to the clinic, they would pray for the women, they would try to engage the women in discussion as to why they shouldn't have an abortion and offer alternatives to abortion.) When Operation Rescue set up operations, the abortion doctor at the clinic asked me to become friendly with the Rescuers, to infiltrate them sort of, to try to keep ahead of what they might do.
I couldn’t be so hypocritical, so instead I would sit on the bench outside the clinic and just wait for them. Each time they came, they were always happy. I wondered why. No one was happy in the abortion clinic. Pastor Flip Benham, who led Operation Rescue was always friendly to me and one day he came over and said, "Norma I have a bible passage that will convince you that God is Pro-Life. When he read the verse it somehow touched my heart. Also there was family with two little girls who worked with Rescue their names were Emily and Chelsea. They were the sweetest little girls, and they would come and talk to me while I was sitting on the bench. I would see them often, and Emily would always ask me to come to church with them. I just kept putting her off and saying "some other time." As I became friends with this family Emily's mother, Wanda, told me that she wasn't married when she became pregnant with Emily, and others had encouraged her to have an abortion. Wanda told me that she had seen women after they had an abortion, and they were different. They would become shackled for the rest of their lives, until they could forgive themselves. She didn't want to be like those women, so she gave birth to Emily. One day I became angry at a woman at our clinic who tried to trip Emily because Emily was with Rescue. I told the women to get off the property, and said to her "How can you be so mean to her, she's just a child for heavens sake." When the women left, Emily said to me "Miss Norma, then why are you letting them kill babies inside there." She was only seven but so wise , and I didn't have an answer for her. I was beginning to see the irony of what I was doing.
Marianne: How did you feel working at the abortion clinic?
Norma: I don't remember ever feeling happy, it was just something I did. No one at the abortion clinic seemed happy. The people who seemed happy to me like Pastor Flip, Emily and her family, and the Rescuers, worked against abortion. At night my dreams were horrible: I would dream of dead babies. There was a freezer at the clinic where the bodies of dead babies were put. The bodies accumulated in there to be discarded every two weeks. I was so afraid of that freezer; I would dream that the freezer door would open up and swish me into it.
Marianne: To what do you credit your decision to finally become pro-life?
Norma: I was won by love. The Holy Spirit, God's love for me, was seeking me through the love of other people. In particular, God was working through little Emily. She continued to ask me to go to church with her, but I kept putting her off. One day, I agreed to go to lunch with her mother. As we were walking past some cars, I looked up and saw a bumper sticker on a car that read, "Abortion stops a beating heart," and there was little Emily's face next to it. I realized that I had witnessed thousands of little Emily's whose hearts had been stopped by abortion, and Emily herself had been born into circumstances that would have justified abortion in our society. I immediately thought, "My God what have I done?"
A great deal of guilt goes along with being a party to abortion. I have given up my second and third children for adoption, but I had come close to abortion; and I knew I was an accomplice to the killing that was going on at the abortion clinic. The next time Emily invited me to go to church with her, I said, "Yes." I was sitting in church which Emily and her family, and the reading of John 3:16 was read. I became hot and uncomfortable. Then the pastor asked if anyone there wanted to know Jesus. I raised my hand, went up to the altar, and on July 22, 1995, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I walked out a new creation in Christ!
Marianne: What did you do after you found forgiveness through Jesus?
Norma: I left the abortion clinic where I was working. When I announced that I was leaving, five people who worked there also left. They must have been wanting to leave, and my announcement may have given them courage. I supported Operation Rescue for awhile working outside the clinic. Some time after, I started a ministry called "Roe No More." I would speak wherever I could on my experiences with the abortion industry, and what it had done to me, and how I found my way out through God's love. I was invited to speak on several talk shows, such as "Nightline." The feminist groups, however, were very upset with me. They tried to intimidate me with their hatred, hissing and booing and shoving, whenever I was speaking.
Marianne: You didn't just leave the abortion industry, you have become very active in the pro-life cause. This was a very courageous position for you to take especially when, for 22 long years, you had been the poster woman for the abortion cause. How did you find the courage to do this?
Norma: First of all my faith in Jesus gave me courage. Just as in the Bible it says 'I will spit out all who are lukewarm', I couldn't hide the faith that Jesus had given me. God had turned a light on inside me; if I believed in Jesus and his word, I had to be pro-life. Secondly, I've always been the one on the outside. Growing up in Texas, my mother was a weak Catholic, and my father was a minister in the Jehovah Witness faith. It was against the Jehovah Witness faith for me to say the pledge of allegiance. In elementary school each morning the class stood to say the pledge. My father had told me to stay seated; at 10 years old I had to be defiant and so I would sit down. Each day I was taken to the principal's office and endured some punishment because of my defiance. Later on when I witnessed my father acting contradictory to the admonishment he gave his parishioner, and my mother wasn't able to explain the Catholic faith to me, I decided not to follow any religion. So, I've been used to going the opposite way in life; but now the opposite way, is the Way of Life.
Marianne: What has been you relationship with your daughter who was your first child?
Norma: I was unwed when she was born. My mother wanted to raise the baby, so I was forced to let her adopt my daughter. My daughter who is 34 now, has made me a grandmother twice. My support of abortion, however did affect my daughter. She called me one day and said she had to tell me something. When we met, she told me she was pregnant, and I said that I guessed that before she told me. Then she asked me if I thought she should have the baby. Since she knew I had supported abortion, she thought that I might expect her to have one. I told her that I wanted to have my grandchild.
Marianne: Once you became a Christian, what led you to the Catholic faith?
Norma: I was asleep one night and I heard, "My child, you are to come home to me." I wondered if the message was foretelling my death. Then the thought occurred to me 'what if it was Satan?' I called Fr. Frank Pavone (we had become friends after I had become a Christian) and told him about these dreams. He encouraged me to pray about the message. I continued to hear this message, and I felt someone tugging at my heart. Pondering the message one day, I asked, "Lord, what does this mean?"The answer I received was, "I want you to come home…to my Church." Relieved and thankful, I answered, "Oh, I can do that!" On August 17, 1998 I entered the Catholic Church. I received the Holy Eucharist and was confirmed by Father Frank Pavone.
Marianne: Has accepting all that the Catholic faith teaches been difficult?
Norma: No, once I make up my mind to do something, that's it. I am part of a world wide family now. I follow the Church's teaching and the Pope 100%. People who say they are Catholic but believe it's OK to allow abortion aren't really living the Catholic faith.
Marianne: You mentioned that while you were involved in the abortion industry, you had bad dreams. Do you still have flashbacks of what you saw at the abortion clinic?
Norma: No. After I accepted Jesus, the Lord pretty much healed me. I used to have nightmares all the time; but once I accepted God's forgiveness, He gave me this gift of healing.
Marianne: What advice would you give to Catholics who want to support the pro-life effort?
Norma: Where I live, we are part of the Bishop's pro-life committee. Go to the abortion clinic and pray the rosary in support of life. A parish could adopt an abortion clinic and offer prayers for conversion of hearts. Help the pro-life cause financially. Call and tell the pro-life supporters, who pray at the clinic, that they are doing a great job.
Marianne: What would you say to someone who is contemplating abortion?
Norma: I would simply tell them not to do it. Their life will be affected in more ways that they can ever imagine; they will live in bondage for the rest of their life. I would ask them not to shut out God, who loves them. It is really sad that so many people don't have God in their lives. I feel so sorry for the children whose parents never tell them about Jesus, about how much He wants and loves them…I was one of those children.
Marianne: Dear Norma, thank you so much for opening your heart to us. We ask God for the grace to be pro-life, as you are now, and not to take for granted the lessons taught in the Gospel of Life; the lessons for which you had to work so hard to discover through the love of Jesus. Thank you for being an instrument of Gods grace, for saying "yes" to God's call of life and love.