The daughter of “Jane Roe”—the woman whose case was used in the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision—said although she has an opinion on the abortion debate, she plans to keep it “close to my chest” after she was used as a “pawn” in the case that changed history.
In her first television interview since she revealed her identity in an Atlantic article last month, Shelley Lynn Thornton said she doesn’t really talk about abortion “because I’m not going to let either side use me for their advantage because that’s not me and—you know—find somebody else.”
Thornton said she learned of her birth identity around her 19th birthday when reporters at the National Enquirer informed her she was the biological daughter of Norma McCorvey, who used the pseudonym “Jane Roe” as the plaintiff in the case that legalized abortion across the country.
In 1969, McCorvey, who was 21-years-old and had already given up two babies for adoption, became pregnant for a third time. Since abortion was a state decision at the time, McCorvey could not receive an abortion because she lived in Texas, where it was illegal.
By the time the Supreme Court made its decision in McCorvey’s favor in 1973, McCorvey had already given birth and placed the child, who was Thornton, up for adoption.
After being ambushed by the reporters, who did not disclose their professions, Thornton said McCorvey reached out to her by the phone.
“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 in a preview of the interview with ABC News‘ Linsey Davis.
Thornton said she has never forgiven her biological mother, especially for being “upfront” about wanting to meet her for media attention.
“I can deal with that. I can’t deal with lies and treachery and things like that. To me, that’s like no, sorry, not playing that game with you. And that’s all it was,” Thornton said. “It was a game. It was a game. I was just a pawn, and I wasn’t going to let her do it.”
McCorvey, who became publicly known after the decision from the Supreme Court, switched from being a key figure in the abortion rights activist movement in the 1980s to joining those on the anti-abortion side in the 1990s.
That opinion switched again when she claimed in a late-life interview that she had been paid by the anti-abortion movement to speak on their behalf.
“I think she was taken advantage of by both sides, but I think she also took advantage of both sides,” Thornton said in the interview, which is set to air Monday night at 7 p.m.
After learning of who her biological mother was, Thornton worried that she would be blamed by anti-abortion activists for the Supreme Court ruling.
“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.”
The 51-year-old never agreed to meeting McCorvey before her death in 2017 and said she has “no regrets” about choosing not to.
“She didn’t deserve to meet me,” Thornton said. “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.”
Earlier this fall, Texas’s controversial new abortion law, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions, went into effect. Since, the Justice Department sued Texas, arguing the law to be unconstitutional and a violation of equal protection provided under the 14th Amendment.
The Supreme Court will also take up another abortion case from Mississippi later this year—a case that is expected to present the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade yet.