Roe v Wade baby breaks her silence: ‘I was just a pawn’

Shelley Lynn Thornton has no regrets about never meeting her birth mother

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 04 October 2021 17:30
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<p>Shelley Lynn Thornton, whose conception led to the landmark Roe v Wade ruling almost 50 years ago</p>

Shelley Lynn Thornton, whose conception led to the landmark Roe v Wade ruling almost 50 years ago

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The woman whose conception led to the landmark US abortion decision in Roe v Wade has broken her silence almost 50 years after the case was decided by the Supreme Court.

Speaking exclusively to ABC News, Shelley Lynn Thornton says she never wanted to meet her birth mother, has no regrets about not doing so, and did not want to be used as a pawn by her or those on opposing sides of the abortion debate.

Norma McCorvey, who went by the pseudonym Jane Roe in the landmark case, gave birth to Ms Thornton and put her up for adoption in 1970, well before the judgment was handed down in 1973.

Ms Thornton says her biological mother only ever wanted to meet her for publicity purposes. She was also hurt by comments Ms McCorvey made to the press about feeling guilty for placing her for adoption and wishing that she had had the abortion.

“She didn’t deserve to meet me,” Ms Thornton says. “She never did anything in her life to get that privilege back. She never expressed any genuine feeling for me or genuine remorse for doing the things that she did, saying the things that she did over and over and over again. She wasn’t sorry, about giving me away or anything.”

Ms McCorvey died in 2017 and at various times voiced opinions both in support and against abortion, though she claimed in an interview before her death that she was paid by the anti-abortion movement.

“I feel that she could have handled things a lot better,” says Ms Thornton, adding that Ms McCorvey could have been direct about wanting to meet her for the media publicity.

“I can deal with that. I can’t deal with lies and treachery and things like that. To me, that’s like no, sorry, not playing that game with you. And that’s all it was. It was a game. It was a game. I was just a pawn, and I wasn’t going to let her do it,” she told ABC.

Ms Thornton keeps her own opinions on abortion to herself.

“I don’t really talk about that just because I’m not going to let either side use me for their advantage,” she said, “because that’s not me and, you know, find somebody else.”

Ms Thornton revealed her identity in an article in The Atlantic in early September.

Roe v Wade continues to be one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever passed by the Supreme Court.

Hailed as a bedrock of female reproductive rights in the US, it is loathed by many right-wing politicians who see abortion as akin to murder.

Various state and federal laws have attempted to overturn aspects of the law, including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.

The latest attempt from the state of Texas would ban abortion after six weeks in all cases including victims of rape and abortion.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice would sue the state to protect women’s rights.

The Supreme Court began its new term on Monday morning and an abortion case is scheduled to be heard soon.

Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health takes up Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in a direct challenge to Roe v Wade and other cases guaranteeing a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

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