The daughter of “Jane Roe” — the woman whose case was used in the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision — says she has “no regrets” about never meeting her biological mother.
And after keeping her identity secret for more than 50 years, Shelley Lynn Thornton has come to terms with her identity, saying in her first on-camera interview that the ruling “has nothing to do with me.”
Thornton’s identity as the daughter of “Jane Roe,” or Norma McCorvey, was revealed last month in an article in the Atlantic. The 1973 Supreme Court ruling made abortion a federally protected right.
“She didn’t deserve to meet me,” Thornton told ABC News of McCorvey for the interview, which aired Monday. “She never did anything in her life to get that privilege back. She never expressed genuine feeling for me or genuine remorse for doing the things that she did, saying the things that she did over and over and over again. She wasn’t sorry, about giving me away or anything.”
“It was a game. It was a game. I was just a pawn, and I wasn’t going to let her do it,” she said.
Thornton did not learn her mother’s true identity until she was 19 years old, when she says she was tricked by reporters from the National Enquirer. The reporters told Thornton they would reveal the identity of her biological mother at a restaurant in Seattle’s Space Needle. She went with her adoptive mother, Ruth.
“They’d asked me if I’d ever heard of her before and I said no,” Thornton told ABC News’ Linsey Davis.
“And they said, ‘Well, she is the woman who they used to do the Roe versus Wade case. She was Jane Roe.’”
They demanded to know the teenager’s stance on abortion: Was she pro-life or pro-choice?
She told them she didn’t even know what that meant before Ruth was able to escort away from the media barrage. Thornton told ABC that she broke down after.
“My whole thinking is that, ‘Oh God, everybody’s going to hate me because everyone’s going to blame me for abortion being legal.’ You know, it’s like ‘It’s all my fault,’ is pretty much what I was thinking,” she said. “And that’s really hard to grasp when you’re in that kind of a situation and you’re just kind of like learning all of this stuff.”
After the incident, Thornton said, she was able to speak on the phone to McCorvey for the first time.
“It became apparent to me really quickly that the only reason why she wanted to reach out to me and find me was because she wanted to use me for publicity,” Thornton said.
McCorvey was 22 years old in 1970, unmarried and pregnant in Texas, where abortion was illegal. McCorvey had given up two baby daughters already and did not want to have a third child.
She would become known as the plaintiff, Jane Roe, in the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion a federally protected right.
Thornton was already born and was living with an adoptive family by the time the decision was reached.
Thornton said prior to learning who her mother was, she had not really considered abortion, saying it was a “non-thing” in her adopted family.
McCorvey, who died in 2017, joined the abortion rights movement in the 1980s, saying she hoped to find the child she had put up for adoption, but then things got sticky.
In the 1990s, she crossed the picket line and joined the anti-abortion side.
In a 2020 documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey claimed she had been paid by anti-abortion activists to switch sides.
“I think she was taken advantage of by both sides, but I think she also took advantage of both sides,” Thornton told ABC News.
Thornton has kept her personal views on abortion “close to my chest,” not wanting to be used like McCorvey was.
“I don’t really talk about that just because I’m not going to let either side use me for their advantage,” she said, adding that activists can “find someone else.”
“Now I understand that it has nothing to do with me,” she told ABC News.
Thornton has been able to connect with one of her two older biological half-sisters whom McCorvey had also given up for adoption, Jennifer Ferguson. The two told ABC they had an “instant bond.” Now they talk nearly every day.
“We have a lot of similarities. We both like the same colors, we both like to do the same crafts and things like that. We both have probably about the same patience level with things,” Thornton said.
“For her to have to keep that under lock and key for so many years and not talk about it, it can only hurt, and she doesn’t want to do that anymore,” Ferguson said. “So, yeah, I’m 100% behind her.”
Abortion has become a hotly contested issue over the past year after many states passed strict abortion laws.
The Supreme Court returned for a new term on Monday amid controversy around allowing a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks to stand, leading many to fear the conservative-controlled court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
The justices are expected to take up a case concerning a similar Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a direct challenge to the 1973 decision.
This past weekend, thousands of women across the country marched to protect their abortion rights in 650 cities, including Manhattan and Albany.
“I am sick and tired of having to fight over abortion rights,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told rally-goers in the state capital. “It’s settled law in the nation.”