DALLAS (TheBlaze/AP) -- Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym "Jane Roe" led to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure, died Saturday at age 69.
McCorvey died at an assisted living center in Katy, Texas, said journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about McCorvey and was with her and her family when she died. He said she died of heart failure and had been ill for some time, according to the Washington Post.
Pro-life groups mourned McCorvey's death on Saturday.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement:
Norma McCorvey will be greatly missed from this world but is no doubt rejoicing in heaven with the lives she has helped to spare over her lifetime. She was one of the first women that the abortion industry publicly betrayed, using her to fill the position of 'Jane Roe' in the infamous Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. She never even had the abortion but went on to place her child for adoption. Eventually Ms. McCorvey had a public conversion to Christianity and became one of the most widely-known and effective advocates for the preborn of her generation. We cannot thank her enough and pray that she rests in peace.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony List, took to Twitter to mourn McCorvey's death and remember the victories she had later in life, including her work to overturn Roe v. Wade:
Dear Norma McCorvey suffered at the hands of those who cared more about the institution of abortion than her. Then she triumphed.— MarjorieDannenfelser (@MarjorieDannenfelser) 1487441017.0
Norma McCovery can RIP. She discovered the lie the early feminists understood. Abortion is not liberation.— MarjorieDannenfelser (@MarjorieDannenfelser) 1487441077.0
Norma McCorvey understood what this from Susan B Anthony's newspaper meant: "thrice guilty is the one who drive her to the dreadful deed."— MarjorieDannenfelser (@MarjorieDannenfelser) 1487441229.0
Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe v Wade said about the SCOTUS decision: " I'm dedicating my life to overturning it." @mallorytq— MarjorieDannenfelser (@MarjorieDannenfelser) 1487441396.0
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also said in a statement:
“She was victimized and exploited by abortion ideologues when she was a young woman, but she came to be genuinely sorry that a decision named for her has led to the deaths of more than 58 million children.
Norma’s conversion to Christianity, then to Catholicism, was sincere and I was honored to be part of that journey. I’m sorry she won’t be here to celebrate with me when we finally abolish legal abortion in this country, but I know she will be watching.
McCorvey was 22, unmarried, unemployed and pregnant for the third time when in 1969 she sought to have an abortion in Texas, where the procedure was illegal except to save a woman's life. The subsequent lawsuit, known as Roe v. Wade, led to Supreme Court's 1973 ruling that established abortion rights, though by that time, McCorvey had given birth and given her daughter up for adoption.
Decades later, McCorvey underwent a conversion, becoming an evangelical Christian and joining the anti-abortion movement. A short time later, she underwent another religious conversion and became a Roman Catholic.
"I don't believe in abortion even in an extreme situation. If the woman is impregnated by a rapist, it's still a child. You're not to act as your own God," she told The Associated Press in 1998.
After the court's ruling, McCorvey had lived quietly for several years before revealing herself as Jane Roe in the 1980s. She also confessed to lying when she said the pregnancy was the result of rape.
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, she remained an ardent supporter of abortion rights and worked for a time at a Dallas women's clinic where abortions were performed. Her 1994 autobiography, "I Am Roe: My Life, Roe v. Wade, and Freedom of Choice," included abortion-rights sentiments along with details about dysfunctional parents, reform school, petty crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, an abusive husband, an attempted suicide and lesbianism.
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sitting in while the court listened to arguments in a Missouri abortion case. Months later, the high court ultimately upheld the Missouri law in the case, Webster v. Reproductive Health Service, making it illegal to use public officials or facilities for abortions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
But a year later, she was baptized before network TV cameras by a most improbable mentor: The Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, leader of Operation Rescue, now known as Operation Save America. McCorvey joined the cause and staff of Benham, who had befriended her when the anti-abortion group moved next door to the clinic where she was working.
McCorvey also said her religious conversion led her to give up her lover, Connie Gonzales. She said the relationship turned platonic in the early 1990s and that once she became a Christian she believed homosexuality was wrong.
She recounted her evangelical conversion and stand against abortion in the January 1998 book "Won by Love," which ends with McCorvey happily involved with Operation Rescue.
But by August of that year, she had changed faiths to Catholicism. Though she was still against abortion, she had left Operation Rescue, saying she had reservations about the group's confrontational style.
McCorvey formed her own group, Roe No More Ministry, in 1997 and traveled around the country speaking out against abortion. In 2005, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by McCorvey to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
WASHINGTON, : This 21 January, 1998, file photo shows Norma McCorvey, the woman at the center of the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion, testifies before a US Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee during hearings on the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO/Chris KLEPONIS/FILES)
In May 2009, she was arrested on trespassing charges after joining more than 300 anti-abortion demonstrators when President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Notre Dame. In July 2009, she was among demonstrators arrested for disrupting Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination hearing.
McCorvey was born in Louisiana, spending part of her childhood in the small village of Lettsworth. Her family then moved to Houston and later Dallas, where in "I Am Roe" she recounts stealing money at the age of 10 from the gas station where she worked afternoons and weekends and running away to Oklahoma City before being returned home by police. She was eventually sent to a state reform school for girls in the northern Texas town of Gainesville, living there from the age of 11 to 15.
She married at the age of 16, but separated shortly after while she was pregnant. She says her mother tricked her into signing away custody of her firstborn and then threw her out of the house.
"My mom screamed, 'What did a lesbian know about raising a child?' I lost my child, and my home," she told the AP in 1998.
She gave a second child up for adoption, but when she got pregnant a third time she decided to have an abortion. She said she couldn't afford to travel to one of the handful of states where it would have been legal.
In "I Am Roe," she said her adoption attorney put her in touch with Texas lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were seeking a woman to represent in a legal case to challenge the state's anti-abortion statute. She gave birth to the "Roe" baby in June 1970.