By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Norma McCorvey, the woman known as “Jane Roe” in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, said she was lying when she switched to support the anti-abortion movement, saying she had been paid to do so.
In a new documentary, made before her death in 2017 and due to be broadcast on Friday, McCorvey makes what she calls a “deathbed confession.”
“I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say,” she says on camera. “I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”
“If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice,” she added.
“AKA Jane Roe,” will be broadcast on the FX cable channel on Friday but was made available to television journalists in advance.
It traces McCorvey’s troubled youth, how she became the poster child of abortion rights and her about-face in the 1990s when she announced she was baptized as a born-again Christian who campaigned against abortion.
The documentary was filmed in the last months of her life before her death at age 69 in 2017 in Texas.
The 1973 Supreme Court ruling has for decades been the focus of a divisive political, legal and moral debate.
The Rev. Robert Schenck, one of the evangelical pastors who worked with McCorvey after her conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, looked stunned as he was shown her interview as part of the documentary.
Schenck said the anti-abortion movement had exploited her weaknesses for its own ends and acknowledged she had been paid for her appearances on the movement’s behalf.
“What we did with Norma was highly unethical,” Schenck said in the documentary. “The jig is up.”
In a separate blog post on Tuesday, Schenck said he hoped people would watch “AKA Jane Roe.”
“You’ll see me express profound regret for how movement leaders (like me) mistreated Norma,” he wrote in the blog.
“Her name and photo would command some of the largest windfalls of dollars for my group and many others, but the money we gave her was modest. More than once, I tried to make up for it with an added check, but it was never fair.”
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)