Thoughts from Fr. Frank Pavone on the Norma McCorvey Documentary

Statement after watching the May 2020 Documentary on Norma

First of all, Norma at no time says that she thinks abortion is right or that Roe vs. Wade is right.

Her comments about women having choice are very consistent with the view she often discussed with us that God gave us free choice (indeed, as Rev. Flip Benham once pointed out to Norma from Deut. 30) and that women must make choices. However, she also believed that some choices were wrong, including abortion, and spoke that clearly in word and deed for decades.

As for Roe vs. Wade, neither Norma nor the majority of Americans say they agree with a policy of unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy, which is exactly what Roe vs. Wade permits. The documentary fails to accurately convey what Roe vs. Wade says, and in fact focuses on the misleading headlines that the decision “allows early-stage abortions” and makes it legal “in the first three months.”

The documentary fails to point out that at the time of the very press conference that Norma had with Gloria Allred, Norma had actually told Gloria, “You know, I think abortion’s wrong.” (see her book Won by Love, p.23), and when she worked in the abortion industry, she actually talked women out of abortions.

Second, Norma at no time says that her conversion was fake.

We who knew her did not simply hear her speak words about her conversion. We saw her do the work of her conversion, namely, the hard work of repenting and grieving, behind the scenes, of her role in both legalizing abortion and helping kill babies in the clinics. The documentary entirely skips this whole aspect of her life – an aspect I was deeply involved in day by day for 22 years, as we counseled her through the grief, the nightmares and the spiritual and psychological path of healing for those who have been involved in the abortion industry. Norma took part in that process willingly and courageously.

The words “it was all an act” were not Norma’s words; they were the words of Nick, the producer, who asked a leading question, the context of which is omitted. Norma was always joking about acting – it’s something that goes back far into her childhood and her desire to be a movie star. She and Janet Morana and I always joked about “the star-studded cast”, referring primarily to the pro-abortion leaders Norma once interacted with, and then also referring, in a joking way, to the three of us. She often had to be in formal situations, which were completely contrary to her rough and tumble personality and upbringing, and she had to “act the part” of being a bit more sophisticated than she was inclined to be. But neither then, nor in the documentary, did she say she wasn’t sincere in her conversion.

Third, Norma at no time says that she was paid to convert, or that she received huge sums of money.

In fact, Norma was always short of money. The documentary shows the 990 for “Roe No More Ministries,” not for Norma McCorvey’s bank account. I helped Norma create and run Roe No More Ministries. Connie Gonzalez was also part of that ministry. The ministry was the interface that handled Norma’s speaking engagements and therefore groups would pay to that ministry for airline tickets and other travel-related expenses when they invited Norma to speak.

Fourth, Norma at no time says that she did not believe the words she spoke in the pro-life movement.

Rev. Rob Schenck explained, we in the pro-life leadership “coached” Norma in her public speaking. That was because she asked us to. She was not at all skilled in public speaking or articulating the nuances of the pro-life message. That does not mean, and she never said, that she didn’t believe the words she spoke. We helped her with her talks, but she both approved and believed every word.

This is in sharp contrast to what happened at the very press conference the documentary shows with pro-abortion attorney Gloria Allred. As Norma relates in her book, “I scribbled a few lines and gave them to Gloria. Gloria walked to the back and returned about twenty minutes later with a typed version. I noticed that when the secretary had finished typing my words, they extended to several paragraphs, even though I had written only a few sentences. “What do I do with this?” I asked Gloria, seeing how my comments had grown. “We’ll hand out copies to the press, and then you can read it on the air…They just like to hear you say it in your own words.” [Norma responded], “But these aren’t my words—you changed everything!”

Fifth, Norma at no time says that she was “used” by the pro-life movement.

In fact, she denies that vigorously when asked by Ted Koppel. Her further comment in the documentary about how pro-life people treated her was that “they’ve shown me what it means to be a human being… they’ve loved me… they’ve nurtured me… they’ve cared for me.” And that’s exactly what we did, and Norma thanked me and Janet and the pro-life movement for that right up to her dying day.

It’s amazing how the documentary leaves out the question that Norma answers by saying, “They’re a**holes”. I heard Norma get angry like this about many specific people in our movement. That doesn’t mean the same thing as rejecting the movement or its message. Rev. Rob Schenck refers a few times to how bad “what we did to Norma” was, but without defining who the “we” were or what specific things were done. By leaving out more specific questions and answers, the documentary unfairly voices these broad-brushed assertions. And note well, they are not the assertions of Norma herself.

Initial Thoughts Before the Airing of the Documentary

Understandably, a lot of noise is being made about the upcoming documentary about Norma McCorvey. Here are my thoughts today…

Many of us knew her; I was privileged to be by her side for her journey for 22 years, from her baptism in 1995 to the day of her death in 2017 – a day on which we had our final conversation and she urged us all to keep pushing forward in the pro-life cause. I received her into the Catholic Church in 1998, led her through an intense spiritual and psychological healing process from the wounds she incurred in the abortion industry, had thousands of conversations and spent countless hours both in public and in private, for business and pleasure, as did our colleague and my associate Janet Morana.

The sacrifices Norma made on this journey of healing are not things you can fake. Her life can’t be summarized in an interview or an article. One had to see the whole pattern, all the ups and downs, to identify her center of gravity. She was wounded and erratic, and yet knew she was a new creation in Christ; she was needful of help and yet fiercely independent, tender of heart and yet capable of fierce anger and rebellion.

I don’t know what the interview was that the documentary is touting, or what was said leading up to it. What I do know is that the conversion and commitment, the agony and the joy I witnessed firsthand for 22 years was not a fake. There is 0% chance of that.

If anything, what the other side has to face up to is that Norma rejected abortion before she became pro-life. The day before the pro-abortion press conference in which she was first revealed as the “Roe” of Roe v Wade, she told Gloria Allred that she thought abortion was wrong. And while working in abortion clinics, she talked women out of their abortions. If there was any ambiguity, it was about her commitment to pro-choice, not to pro-life.

Our movement should take this wave of negative publicity as a chance to get to know Norma better, and to urge America to get to know Roe v Wade better, a policy that not only Norma but America has rejected.

Janet and I did a broadcast today about this, which you can see here:

Fr. Frank Pavone

More about Norma McCorvey

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: