The year was 1969. Norma McCorvey was 22, pregnant and unwed when she approached an attorney about wanting an abortion.
The Dallas woman didn’t get one, but four years later, her lawsuit fighting Texas’ ban on abortion reached the Supreme Court and made the procedure legal across the United States.
McCorvey, “Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, died Saturday at 69 from a heart ailment. She switched camps in the mid-1990s, when she embraced the anti-abortion movement of the evangelical pastor who baptized her in a Garland swimming pool.
“Miss Norma” was a complicated figure in the abortion debate. McCorvey, who once identified as lesbian, admitted that she had lied about being gang-raped so she could end her pregnancy. But after her “born again” experience, she clashed with her pastor about his protests outside a church with a predominantly gay congregation.
Throughout her life, McCorvey struggled with addiction and unemployment, and decades in the spotlight didn’t result in financial stability. Her life was chronicled in two autobiographies and interviews she granted.
McCorvey died of heart failure in a Texas assisted-living facility, said Joshua Prager, a New York journalist who has written about her in Vanity Fair magazine.
McCorvey became a hero to abortion rights supporters but a villain to those seeking to outlaw abortion. In 1995, she announced she had switched her allegiance to the anti-abortion movement.
The Roe v Wade decision was handed down on January 22, 1973 with seven justices backing it and two dissenting.
In the four decades since the Supreme Court ruling, tens of millions of legal abortions have been performed in the country.
The ruling ended a lengthy legal drama that had begun in the state of Texas three years earlier, where abortions were permitted only in cases in which pregnancies endangered the mothers or children.
A single mother who had had a rough childhood, McCorvey was pregnant for a third time and wanted an abortion.
Encouraged by two feminist lawyers, she filed suit against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade over the Texas law under the pseudonym Jane Roe.
Although her child was born, the case took on a life of its own, becoming one of the most important and best-known decisions ever made by the Supreme Court.
McCorvey later became a fervent abortion opponent, converting to evangelical Protestantism and then Catholicism.