By: Eileen Den Bleyker
Norma Mc Corvey died on February 18, 2017. She was 69 years old. As a young woman she lived what most would consider a scandalous life. She was born in Louisiana into a dysfunctional family. Her parents were poor and she was sexually abused. Norma began running away from home at age 10. Her parents divorced when she was 13 and she, her brother and mother moved to Texas. Norma dropped out of school, was in trouble with the authorities and ended up in “reform school.” “I am a rough woman, born into pain and anger and raised mostly by myself” Norma wrote in her autobiography. She was sexually promiscuous with both men and women, abused alcohol and drugs and could not hold down a job. She was married at 16 and immediately became pregnant, having a baby girl that she was incapable of taking care of. Custody of the child was given to Norma’s mother. By the age of 22 Norma had three pregnancies by three different men. She could not take care of any of them. She suffered from depression and attempted suicide. She viewed her life as “a complete failure.” She would have aborted the last of her pregnancies if it had been legal, but in Texas where she was living at the time, abortion was a crime. It was 1970. When she became pregnant the third time, Norma left her job with a traveling carnival to stay with her father in Dallas. There Norma was introduced to an attorney who was looking for a case that could be used to challenge Texas’s law prohibiting abortion. Her scandalous life was changed by that encounter. Norma became the anonymous plaintiff, Roe, in Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade is the United States Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in America in 1973. In that case, the nation’s highest court ruled that the 9th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects a women’s right to privacy which includes the right to have sexual relations, extends to grant a woman the right to decide whether or not to abort a fetus growing in her womb. The Court reasoned that the fetus had no rights of its own if it was not “viable”, meaning if it did not yet have an ability to survive on its own outside of the womb. But medical advances since 1973 have seen babies survive outside the
womb earlier and earlier. The debate over when life begins and when that life is entitled to the protection of the law has not subsided in the 45 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. Every woman who becomes pregnant and considers abortion must answer this question. When does this baby’s life begin or end? For Norma, her child was born before the Roe decision was rendered. The baby girl was adopted into a loving family.
There are many women whose lives are just as scandalous as Norma’s was when she became pregnant. But the answer to the question of when a new individual has been formed in the womb is not found in whether one’s life is difficult or easy; rich or poor; black or white. Expect Hope exists to remove the barriers of homelessness, poverty and race from the decision about life for an unborn child. Expect Hope’s purpose is to be an encounter that changes a scandalous life.
Hope is a real thing. Norma Mc Covey’s story does not end in being the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade. While working for an abortion clinic in the mid-1990’s, Norma met an activist Christian minister who moved in next door to the clinic. Through this encounter Norma’s scandalous life was again changed when she learned about the love of Jesus Christ for her. After this encounter, Norma became a Christian. Her scandalous life was given a new purpose and she worked for the next 25 years to reverse Roe and leave her old ways behind. “I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name,” she told a U.S. Senate Subcommittee.