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Film Review: AKA Jane Roe

The abortion debate heated up when several states attempted to block abortions during the quarantine, although admittedly, the battle for maintaining the protection of Roe v. Wade was always contentious. Both groups have supporters that are visible and invisible, from the pastors who encourage protesters outside the clinics to the lawyers who battle the blocks set up by the courts from all the supposedly Republican states. The subject of the case, Jane Roe aka Norma McCorvey, was apparently used by both sides–in the beginning when she was the champion for reproductive rights, and for most of her life, when she was used as a conservative beacon against reproductive rights. Right before her death, she confessed to being paid to support the conservative perspective, which shook everyone on all sides. Through the documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” it was evident that McCorvey learned through her own exploitation that it was important to exploit others, regardless of the outcome.

From her childhood, McCorvey’s relationship with her mother was contentious because her mother had never wanted to have a second child, and her father ran away from the family, leaving McCorvey with her mother and brother. One could speculate that this desire of being unwanted originally shaped how McCorvey considered family, as something that could be discarded if unwanted. Eventually, McCorvey ran away, but when she was caught, she was sent to reform school, after which she was sent to a relative who molested her. If trauma shapes anyone it touches, McCorvey was taught that her purpose in life was to use or be used. She even began the documentary by saying that she had an insatiable need for attention.

Roe v. Wade occurred because McCorvey was sought out by lawyers looking for a plaintiff, even though McCorvey had not decided whether she wanted to obtain an abortion. Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, both of whom approached the case differently, found a young McCorvey looking to give her second pregnancy up for adoption. Because McCorvey hope to obtain an exception for her abortion, she claimed that she had been raped, which could have been the reason that the case was successful. However, when the case was won and the lawyers were receiving the accolades and attention, McCorvey admitted to feeling exploited, and told the lawyers they won, and not her.

Because of the successful case, McCorvey was invited to several pro-choice events and was treated as an icon for reproductive rights. While she was advocating as pro-choice, she also worked as a janitor and was poorly paid, as was the case of most janitorial positions. Low pay and a need for attention made her vulnerable to an organization called Operation Rescue, who saw her as a threat to be neutralized. Through clandestine payments, McCorvey was able to afford a more comfortable living while she was also flown across the country to champion the conservative cause.

This documentary shows what so many people have known for years: conservative movements have been well-funded, which is why they have been able to make themselves more attractive to more people. There were several steps on her journey when McCorvey could have either forgone the money or been honest about her beliefs, but instead, she believed it was more comfortable to take money for a cause she detested. Her exploitative personality matched perfectly with people who were willing to exploit, so she clearly ended as she began. This documentary was well-done and showed that the “proper channels” of activism can be problematic.

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