Last Sunday, February 18th, Norma McCorvey died; she was the woman behind the legal pseudonym, “Jane Roe” from the American landmark lawsuit Roe v. Wade. The historic and controversial ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on February 22, 1973 found that individual state laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional.
Before I read this case in depth, I thought that Norma McCorvey had herself undergone an abortion during her life. But she never did. Instead, she gave birth to three children: her first daughter, Melissa–who was adopted by her grandmother against McCorvey’s will–and two other unknown babies she gave up for adoption.
Born into a poor and dysfunctional family, McCorvey grew up surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and incidents with law enforcement. Pregnant with her third child at age 21 in 1969, the young woman was referred to the attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were seeking plaintiffs to sue the state of Texas over abortion laws.
More than 20 years after the Supreme Court’s ruling, McCorvey ironically changed her position, wrote a few books about abortion, and dedicated the rest of her life to pro-life activism.
Reading about the American case got me curious about the abortion legislation in my home country, Colombia, and I found Martha Sulay Gonzalez’s heartbreaking case. In 2005, a humble mother of three girls became pregnant despite having had a tubal ligation. Then, during one of the first appointments, the doctor found cervical cancer.
Back then, regardless of the treatments available, the Colombian law prohibited such chemo and radiotherapy for pregnant women. Months later, Gonzalez gave birth to her forth daughter, but continued her legal battle.
On May 10, 2006, the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled to amend the penal code, allowing an abortion only in three specific situations: permanent and irremediable mental or physical defect of the unborn baby, if the pregnancy as a result from rape or incest, and endangerment of the mother’s life.
The cruelty of the ruling is that it came to late, because her death sentence had already been given. The disease metastasized to other organs and Gonzalez died at 37, on June 11, 2007 leaving her four daughters orphans.
These two women, opposite extremes in maternity, wanted the same: to abort their babies–Norma McCorvey, because she was unfit morally and emotionally to be a mother, and Martha Sulay Gonzalez, because she was literally sacrificing her life for her baby’s.
After a year long struggle with my fertility, I saw my baby’s heart flicker on the sonogram screen at merely six weeks of gestation. Having had a healthy and happy pregnancy makes me see the abortion as an aberration.
Nonetheless, I can’t pass judgement. An abortion is a woman’s choice of life, with all the consequences that her decision carries for the rest of her life. That is enough of a sentence.
Abortion legislation generates definitive and passionate positions from both pro-life and pro-choice groups. The government can only do so much, therefore the job starts at home. We must protect our girls–and boys too–from abuse and ignorance, hoping that they will never have to make such a cruel decision.
Thank you for reading and sharing.