Pro-lifers slam FX documentary's claim Jane Roe was paid to be pro-life: 'She was sincere'

Norma McCorvey of Dallas, Texas (R), the "Roe" in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case, testifies before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee along with Sandra Cano of Atlanta, Georgia, the "Doe" in the Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court case, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC June 23, 2005. | (Photo: REUTERS/Shaun Heasley)

Pro-life activists, some of whom have known Norma McCorvey for many years, are rejecting a new documentary’s claim that the woman behind the landmark Supreme Court abortion case Roe v. Wade was paid later in life to promote anti-abortion views.

FX on Hulu will officially release a documentary on Friday titled “AKA Jane Roe." The documentary features a 2017 interview of the famed woman behind the 1973 decision near the end of her life. 

A major point of controversy for the documentary is the claim that McCorvey famously went from being an advocate for abortion rights to becoming a pro-life activist in the 1990s only because she was paid.

“What I can tell you is I had 22 years of conversations & experiences w her. She was sincere,” Father Frank Pavone, who reportedly led McCorvey to convert to Catholic Christianity, wrote in a tweet.

Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, warned that people should wait to "see the unedited footage" and "hear all the conversations preceding it" before making judgments on McCorvey's alleged "deathbed confession."

In an excerpt of the film reviewed by media outlets, McCorvey stated:

“I was the big fish. I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.”

Calling her own words a “deathbed confession,” McCorvey reportedly said that she still supported legalized abortion. She was quoted as saying that if “a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice.”  

Filmmaker Nick Sweeney — whose other films include "The Sex Robots are Coming" and "Born in the Wrong Body" — began working on the documentary in April 2016, often visiting McCorvey and interviewing her before her death in February 2017, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Among other interviewees, Sweeney also spoke with Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister and former leader of the pro-life advocacy group Operation Rescue. Schenck has since distanced himself from pro-life activism.

For his part, Schenck said that McCorvey was indeed paid by activists out of concern “that she would go back to the other side.”

“There were times I wondered: Is she playing us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know [pretty] well we were playing her,” said Schenck, as reported by the newspaper. “What we did with Norma was highly unethical. The jig is up.”

But others who knew McCorvey have refuted the recent headlines suggesting that McCorvey was paid to be pro-life. 

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said he knew her well and that she even lived with his family at one point.

"I saw her in unguarded moments and can verify she was 100 percent pro-life. She spent more years trying to overturn Roe v. Wade than she spent as a pro-abortion activist," he said. 

"I knew her to be a straightforward, down-to-earth woman who was witty and kind.  She loved children and adored my own five children. There is no way her Christian faith or her pro-life beliefs were false. The makers of ‘AKA Jane Roe’ should be ashamed that they took advantage of Norma in the vulnerable last days of her life, then released their spurious movie after she passed away when she could not defend herself.”

Cheryl Sullenger, a leader with Operation Rescue who knew McCorvey for many years, has called the headlines surrounding the interview “out-of-context fake news.”

“I knew Norma personally and saw her during unguarded moments,” said Sullenger to “Norma was frank, and if she was in a mood, she could say things that were controversial.”

“But never did she ever show any hint of being anything other than 100% pro-life as long as I knew her," Sullenger continued. "This latest attack on her pro-life beliefs is nothing but out-of-context fake news.”

Pavone said in another tweet that he had received text messages from McCorvey in 2016 about the interview with Sweeney and how he had paid for her involvement in the film.

“Prior to these sentences she said, ‘I sitting here broke and extremely upset.’ She was paid by him,” Pavone stated in the tweet.

Kristan Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, took to Twitter to reject the “deathbed confession” claim. Hawkins wrote that McCorvey “always spoke w/ passion about her pro-life convictions, which represented a huge & public shift from how she had been seen for so long.”

“The woman that I personally knew lived a painful & complicated life, but spoke directly about how she felt about it,” Hawkins added.

Hawkins also questioned the source of the interview, pointing out that FX on Hulu had recently released a miniseries about the life of the longtime conservative leader and pro-life activist Phyllis Schlafly, who died in 2016 at the age of 92. 

“I also don't believe that [FX] is a good actor, when you consider that earlier this year, they went after the iconic Phyllis Schlafly,” Hawkins argued. “Tearing down pro-life champions won't work for those of us who have had the privilege of knowing the real people behind the headlines.”

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood staffer who has gained national attention for her conversion to the pro-life movement, tweeted that McCorvey “was used by both sides of the abortion debate.”

Johnson also argued that McCorvey “was not mentally well” near the end of her life, believing that the documentary filmmakers “preyed upon that.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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