The ‘Pro-Life’ Movement Was Always a Con

‘AKA Jane Roe’ exposes how anti-abortion activism is built on mistruths, fabrications, and coercion

Jessica Valenti
Published in
4 min readMay 21, 2020
Photo shows McCorvey in front of Supreme Court steps talking to the press in 1989.
Norma McCorvey, “Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, is the center of media attention following arguments in a Missouri abortion case at the Supreme Court on April 26th, 1989. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

A documentary about the life of Norma McCorvey — better known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade — comes out tomorrow on FX, tracking her life from a plaintiff in the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States to a “saved” anti-abortion activist. The big reveal? McCorvey, who died in 2017, admits she only allied with anti-abortion organizations because she was paid to do so.

According to the documentary, AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey received nearly half a million dollars in “benevolent gifts” from anti-abortion and religious groups, like the extremist organization Operation Rescue, in exchange for her public conversion to religion and anti-abortion activism. The partnership was hugely valuable for conservatives. “I was the big fish,” she says.

It’s a shocking admission, but not necessarily a surprising one. The “pro-life” movement has always been a con; this latest revelation is just another reminder of how deep that con goes.

Nearly every piece of legislation, every claim against legalized abortion, and every bit of anti-abortion activism is built on mistruths, fabrications, and coercion. It’s why they’ve published deceptively edited videos to attack abortion providers, and it’s why legislators falsely claim you can save deadly ectopic pregnancies or that women don’t really need abortions when pregnancy is endangering their lives.

Crisis pregnancy centers opened by anti-abortion activists and funded by conservative politicians, for example, advertise as if they offer abortions and misrepresent themselves as medical facilities when, in fact, they employ no health professionals.

These centers also use delay tactics — falsely telling pregnant women they’re likely to miscarry and not to waste money on an abortion, or lying about how far along a woman is in her pregnancy in order to run out the clock on a woman’s ability to legally get an abortion. The centers also frequently lie about medical and mental health risks, scaring and shaming the people who come to them for help.

It’s hard to imagine…



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.