Casey Mattox

There is a 43-year-old woman, born in Texas, who should be dead right now. In fact, she should have never been born. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Texas law that prevented Jane Roe from ending the life of her unborn daughter was unconstitutional. But by the time the Supreme Court issued its decision in 1973, she had already been born and adopted by a family—likely not knowing that all that ink spilled in Roe v. Wade was about her.

Norma McCorvey is “Jane Roe.” She claimed then that her pregnancy was the result of a rape, although for over a decade now she has been outspokenly pro-life and publicly admitted that this, and virtually every fact on which her case was built, was a lie. Both McCorvey and Sandra Cano, the Doe of Doe v. Bolton—Roe’s companion case from Georgia decided the same day—are now outspoken pro-life advocates who have sworn that their cases are built on lies.

But before the Supreme Court could decide whether McCorvey did have a constitutional right to end her unborn daughter’s life, it had to overcome a procedural obstacle that slowed down the process—a delay that factored into whether her daughter would ever have a family.

Because of that delay, McCorvey had already had the child by the time the Supreme Court issued its decision in January 1973. She had been adopted into a Texas home, perhaps somewhere in the Dallas area where McCorvey lived. The court nevertheless said that McCorvey’s case was not moot since her circumstances were “capable of repetition” because courts would never be able to decide the question during the time of a woman’s pregnancy.

Procedural history is never the exciting part of a lawsuit. But for McCorvey’s unborn daughter, the dry complexity of legal procedure is the reason she exists today. Fortunately for a three-year old girl, “the wheels of justice grind slowly,” and by the time the court issued its decision, a Texas family had adopted her. If the courts could have moved more quickly, she (and her family) would have never had that chance. Lemonade comes from lemons.


Casey Mattox

Casey Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom