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The Personal Side of Roe and Doe

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The marchers come by the hundreds of thousands to Washington, DC this Friday. 


Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life - We march in this place, at this time, for a specific reason: On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout pregnancy with its Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions.

Many of the marchers, and many pro-life people across the nation, can explain in detail what the Roe and Doe decisions accomplished.

I'm privileged to also be able to say that both the Roe and Doe were my friends, and I want to share a little bit of what is going through my mind and heart as I march, with them in mind.

Norma McCorvey was the Jane Roe in Roe vs. Wade; she lived in Dallas where the case originated. Sandra Cano was the Mary Doe in Doe vs. Bolton; she lived in Atlanta, from which that case originated.

Both of them were the plaintiffs in these Supreme Court cases that they technically won. But neither one of them was happy at the "victory" and both of them spent the latter part of their lives working and praying for the reversal of the decisions that are forever connected with their names.

Both of them were simple, straightforward people who had a problem that needed to be solved, were fooled into thinking that abortion-activist attorneys could help them, and were manipulated by a movement they never wanted to join.

Neither one of them set out on a path to change the nation's policy on abortion. When these cases began, Norma didn't even know what the word "abortion" meant, and Sandra was so opposed to abortion that when one was scheduled for her as the case unfolded, she fled from Georgia to Oklahoma!

Norma never appeared in a courtroom, and Sandra saw documents bearing her signature which she never read or signed. So few facts were presented about Sandra to the Court that the Justices even questioned if she was a real person!!

Both women believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And I had the privilege of receiving Norma into the Catholic Church and administering to her the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Both Norma and Sandra have now been called home to the Lord, and I miss them.Many were the occasions when we met together, ate together, traveled together, worked on joint articles or press releases, spoke at events, sat before TV cameras, celebrated personal milestones, prayed, or just talked in private wondering how our nation got to where it is on abortion.

As I march this week, I recall their determination " simple and humble " to see these decisions reversed. They took every legal action they could, and shouted their stories from the rooftops. They would always encourage the marchers, and in her final years, when Norma could no longer travel to Washington, I would bring a special personal message from her to the marchers. It was always a message of hope. She was convinced, as I am, that the days of legal abortion are numbered.

As I march this week, I recall their sense of humor. I don't think we ever had a conversation in which we didn't also share a good laugh, despite the seriousness of the issue at hand. 

As I march this week, I recall their faith. These women came to know the Lord better and better each day, and trusted in his care, his Providence, and his victory over death.

Norma took part in Rachel's Vineyard, and it was a key turning point in her journey. She was very aware of the transforming power of Christ. When I first met her, in fact, I said, "So you are the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade!" and she said, "No, I used to be the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade... now, I am a new creation in Christ."

Norma and Sandra knew how to face major obstacles, endure mistreatment and misrepresentation, and yet return again and again to a gentle but firm insistence on who they really were and what they believed. And that's what both of them would say to us today: be the pro-life people you are, speak your mind no matter who doesn't like it, and insist on what you believe all the days of your life.

This week we march; all year long we battle, in the court of public opinion and in the courts of our judiciary, making the case that these abortion decisions of the Court were wrong and must be reversed. 

As we do so, let's not lose sight of the two women behind these cases, and let's not forget their personal encouragement to us to fight this fight with utter determination and complete confidence in victory!


Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more about Norma and Sandra, see and For the full schedule of his activities this week, see 


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Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

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