including handfuls of $100 bills – because she was a ‘symbol anti-abortion movement could not afford to lose’
Evangelical anti-abortionists ‘cut checks’ and ‘stuffed hundred-dollar bills’ into ‘Jane Roe,’ Norma McCorvey’s hands, even though they knew she did not believe in their message, because her dramatic public ‘conversion’ to their cause turned her into ‘a prize they could not afford to lose.’
This is the startling admission made by Reverend Robert Schenck, 61, who was speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com as a new FX documentary ‘AKA Jane Roe’ is set to air.
McCorvey died of heart failure 2017. She was 69.
As ‘Jane Roe,’ she was 22 when she became the protagonist of Roe v Wade – the case that legalized abortion in America. In later years she shed her anonymity and made a stunning about face to become an outspoken member of the anti-abortion movement.
But shortly before her death she gave a series of interviews to filmmaker Nick Sweeney and claimed that her anti-abortion campaigning was ‘all an act’ paid for by evangelical church leaders.
Now Schenck, a key figure in McCorvey’s story and evangelical leader, has admitted to paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep her on side and told DailyMail.com that he and others ignored signals that ‘she wasn’t with us,’ as long as she ‘said the right things in public.’
The Washington, DC based clergyman said, ‘She represented something so valuable to the movement that we were willing to make all kinds of accommodations for her idiosyncrasies and doubts.
‘I had an organization called Faith and Action and we cut checks to Norma McCorvey, quite a few checks over the years.’
Schenck met McCorvey in January 1996 when he invited her to speak at The National Memoriam for Pre-Borns and Their Mothers and Fathers, an annual event that he had started. She joined him on the stage with 50 other anti-abortion leaders and his then friend and peer, Reverend Flip Benham, who had baptized McCorvey in his backyard swimming pool the previous year.
Schenck explained, ‘Flip moved his organization [the anti-abortion Operation Rescue] to premises next door to the abortion provider where Norma was working as a marketing director. They became kind of acrimonious friends exchanging barbs and then they discovered they were similar people.
‘They were both from sort of tortured backgrounds, victims of child abuse and so they developed a friendship and it became a kind of pastoral relationship for Reverend Benham.’
McCorvey’s gave different accounts of her background over the years – claiming at one point that her pregnancy in the Roe v Wade era was a result of rape and later admitting it was not. But all of her accounts painted a picture of a background marred by poverty, abuse and alcohol addiction.
She found a period of stability with partner Connie Gonzalez but that relationship ended in acrimony after 35 years.
Today Schenck is uncertain how sincere McCorvey’s ‘conversion’ ever was, saying, ‘only God knows the depths of our sincerity.’
But he said that he regretted the fact that he never seen McCorvey for the ‘fragile individual’ that she was, so much as the asset that she represented to his cause. Ultimately she was, ‘a problem to be managed’ with money.
He said, ‘For us it was checks – $500 for speaking engagements stands out, I recall signing two checks for $2500 but never any larger sum than that.
‘There was more than one occasion when she called me to bitterly complain that she felt she was being exploited, used, treated unfairly financially so, you know, I might authorize an additional check of $500 or $1000.’
This arrangement lasted more than ten years according to Schenck who recalled a brief period during which McCorvey was on a monthly stipend of a few hundred dollars. In all, he estimated, that she must have been paid more than $450,000 over the years.
He said, ‘I saw the tax records and that was pretty much the figure, but in those days there were quite a lot of informal financial dealings.
‘We stuffed a lot of cash into peoples’ hands, I mean it could be a lot of hundred-dollar bills and that wasn’t properly reported on.’
In her death-bed confession McCorvey referred to herself as a the ‘Big Fish’ in the eyes of the evangelical leaders who courted her. She said, ‘I took their money and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.’
She boasted of being, ‘a good actress.’
For his part Schenck said he never felt like he was ‘paying an actor.’
Though he admitted that his relationship with McCorvey was, at times, ‘transactional,’ he denied that it was ever a cynical attempt to exploit her.
He recalled one occasion on which McCorvey had called him, ‘clearly inebriated.’ He said, ‘She drank enthusiastically – I wish at the time I had seen that as a sign of trouble in her life, but I didn’t. We all kind of laughed it off. It was problematic at times but not so much that we couldn’t just do that.