WASHINGTON, DC (CNA/EWTN News) - As the woman at the center of the case legalizing abortion in the U.S. passed away, pro-life leaders hailed her ultimate conversion on the issue and her ensuing struggles to promote life.
"Ultimately, Norma's story after Roe was not one of bitterness but of forgiveness. She chose healing and reconciliation in her Christian faith," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, stated on Saturday after Norma McCorvey's passing.
"She overcame the lies of the abortion industry and its advocates and spoke out against the horror that still oppresses so many," Dannenfelser added. "In her memory and in her honor, we will carry on that work and we pray for her eternal peace."
Norma McCorvey, the woman "Jane Roe" who was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that found a legal right to abortion, died on Saturday at the age of 69.
She had sued the state of Texas as she was pregnant with her third child and wanted an abortion which was illegal in the state. "Back in 1973, I was a very confused 21 year-old with one child and facing an unplanned pregnancy," McCorvey described in a recent interview posted by VirtueMedia.
Her case was supposedly a rape pregnancy, but she later revealed she had lied about the situation.
"Many believe that she was very much coerced into that situation and was encouraged to lie about the situation being the result of a rape," Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life commented on McCorvey's case. There was "a lot of manipulation and lies and pressure" behind her case, she added.
McCorvey's case went to the Supreme Court which issued the Roe decision, legalizing abortion in all 50 states. Since 1973 there have been over 50 million abortions in the U.S.
Yet as in the other abortion case Doe v. Bolton - decided the same day as Roe - neither plaintiff had an abortion, and both women eventually "had this radical conversion to the truth and dedicated their lives to really protecting the inherent dignity of the human person," Mancini said.
Despite winning in court, McCorvey had never had the abortion she sought, instead carrying her child to term and giving her daughter up for adoption. She is the mother of three daughters.
While she worked at an abortion clinic and later revealed herself as the "Jane Roe" of the Supreme Court decision, she had a sudden turn in the 1990s, joining the pro-life movement and becoming a Christian.
"Norma suffered tremendously at the hands of those who cared more about the institution of abortion than this courageous woman's life," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stated on Saturday.
She started the group Roe No More to overturn the Roe decision and reverse its cultural consequences, and was involved with the group Operation Rescue for a time before leaving.
McCorvey revealed that "upon knowing God, I realized that my case which legalized abortion on demand was the biggest mistake of my life," adding that "abortion scars an untold number of post-abortive mothers, fathers, and families too."
Yet baptized a Christian, McCorvey felt called to enter the Catholic Church. As she related in an article for the group Priests for Life, she had attended Catholic masses as a child with her mother who was Roman Catholic.
"I liked it so much and was often moved to tears. I felt the presence of God," she wrote. "There was something very moving about the Catholic ritual and symbolism - the procession with the priest and altar boys, the incense, cross, and candles, the statues and the music. I knew God was everywhere, but in Catholic Churches I always felt especially close to Him."
Tom Peterson, president and founder of VirtueMedia, recalled meeting Norma as he interviewed her on her conversion to Catholicism and her decision to become pro-life.
"Here is a woman who deeply regrets her decision, who had the courage and the faith to put her face on national television on this message," he said, a message "to help heal those wounds, to help unknot a very complicated situation that she was a party to."
Yet "she carried a great price for that," he added.
"She said it was so heavy on her heart that 50 million babies had died because of her participation in this case. And she talked about the number of wounded women out there who took part in abortion because of her involvement."
"She suffers great anxiety, and she suffered great physical and mental spiritual battles for many years," he recalled.
VirtueMedia has launched JaneRoe.com, featuring McCorvey's testimony and those of mothers who have had abortions and regret them.
When McCorvey decided to enter the Church, she received the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. After the mass, she recalled what she felt during the Liturgy of the Eucharist:
"I had been taught what this meant. Jesus was not dying again. Rather, He was drawing us all into His sacrifice, making it present to us, allowing us to join our lives, our sufferings, to His. This was and is the sacrifice that saves the world, that conquers the power of death and destroys the power of abortion. There and then I could place in the chalice all the tears I had ever shed over the aborted babies, all the shame I ever felt from having worked in an abortion clinic and having been a poster-girl for the pro-death movement. There and then, just as the bread and wine were being transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the former Jane Roe could once again rejoice in her own transformation into a new creature in Christ."
Catholics and pro-life leaders offered prayers for her, her family, and all the victims of abortion.
"Now with Norma's passing, we certainly pray for the repose of her soul. We certainly pray for her and the aborted babies and the mothers who have passed away, and are now in heaven or purgatory to pray for our country during this pivotal time," Peterson said.