Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, died on Saturday in Texas, according to the Washington Post.
McCorvey, 69, passed away from a heart condition; she was living in an assisted living facility and was believed to be destitute. Her life was defined by her role in Roe v. Wade, where she was initially known by the pseudonym Jane Roe. By the 1980s, McCorvey was open about her identity and her sexuality; she had a 35-year relationship with a woman named Connie Gonzalez. While McCorvey identified as a lesbian in one of her memoirs, she had numerous relationships with both men and women.
McCorvey was 22 when she found herself pregnant and broke; living in Dallas in the early '70s, she had no option to terminate her pregnancy and could not afford to travel to a state where it was legal. She eventually met attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who wanted to challenge the Texas law. McCorvey's lawsuit would eventually reach the Supreme Court as a class action suit and, in a 7-2 ruling, legalize the right to an abortion nationwide. By the time that happened, McCorvey had already delivered her child and given it up for adoption.
In the years to follow, McCorvey would struggle both to make ends meet and to define her role in the women's rights movement. In the 1990s, she described her attorneys as bullies who viewed her as a pawn. McCorvey would eventually meet anti-abortion advocates and be drawn to their side, becoming a born-again Christian and then a Catholic. She was involved in anti-abortion protests and was arrested for disrupting the 2009 confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotamayor.
But McCorvey didn't necessarily fit amongst her fellow anti-abortion foes, who also judged homosexuality as inherently wrong.
"Neither side was ever willing to accept her for who she was," author and Roe v. Wade expert David J. Garrow told the Post.