By Joe Maxwell with Roy Maynard in Dallas, WORLD, August 26/September 2, 1995 – Volume 10 – Number 15
Driving Miss Norma
Dissuaded by stiff federal penalties from barricading abortion businesses, Operation Rescue pursues a new course and rediscovers a simple truth: Win the heart, and the mind will soon follow. With the high profile defection of abortion clinic worker Norma McCorvey – the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade – among a growing number of others, pro-lifers are seeing the practical benefits of obeying Christ’s command to “love your enemies.” And seeing, at least in Miss Norma’s case, that indeed a little child shall lead them.
Little Emily Mackey sits at her mother’s worn desk-just one of many chipped wooden masterpieces in Operation Rescue’s Dallas office. The seven-year-old watches her mother, Rhonda, 27, an OR volunteer, whirl here and there fielding calls from CNN, Time Magazine, the New York papers, the British and Canadian press, the Today Show and 20/20.
Amidst furniture that looks donated, a dull grey-blue carpet, and a hung ceiling with requisite water spots, Emily sits, listening to the excited chatter from OR volunteers accentuated by rowdy phones and a churning fax.
Emily herself answers calls with a pure childlike confidence that seems to feed on conversing with adults. She keeps them entertained until an OR spokesperson can take over. She helped create this whole stir in the first place. This thing, in one sense, is Emily’s fault.
Back in March, when OR moved its Dallas offices next door to the A Choice for Women abortion clinic, Time magazine writer Richard Lacayo was quoted under a reading “Trouble Brewing”: “Now see,” said Mr. Lacayo, “what happens when we’ve got Roe v. Rescue.”
Just five months later in early August, Time ran another brief. “The pro-choice movement has taken a serious hit.”
Roe v. Rescue?
Jesus and a little girl named Emily who likes to talk to adults and ended up naively asking street-tough Norma McCorvey to come to church. If you’re a child, you figure – Why not?
It’s hard to miss the irony that a little girl, who might as well have been butchered before birth if Americas pro-abortion elites had had their way, ended up rocking the national abortion debate – at least for one week.
The fact is, however, that the conversion to Christ last week of hardened abortion icon Norma McCorvey – the Jane Roe of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion – is indicative of a slight but growing trend, according to OR leaders. In recent months they have seen other key abortion figures converted “at the gates of hell.”
“This is happening all over,” OR national director Flip Benham says.“Jesus is pillaging the abortion industry.” He points to another woman, 24-year-old Kirsten Breedlove, who is seated by him in his office where she now volunteers. Miss Breedlove was the director of a for-profit abortion clinic in Dallas until March, when a loud, male OR protester helped in her conversion.
OR’s befriending of two abortion providers has done more than win two converts; a seven-year-old and a dogged male OR protester inadvertently have thrown light on a dusty room of suppositional bones concerning the national abortion debate. Miss McCorvey and Miss Breedlove’s testimonies highlight at least three things:
- The “tough-love?” tactics of aggressive but nonviolent sidewalk counselors are not ungodly, as some evangelicals who base their opinions largely on secular media accounts may believe.
- Many pro-abort elites don’t really care about women, just winning.
- And what happens inside an abortion clinic is, in fact, as bad as you feared.
The stories of Kirsten Breedlove and Norma McCorvey bear out all three points.
Kirsten Breedlove was 22, mad, and miserable. She had a lesbian lover; she had a nursing degree; she was working in a late-term abortion clinic (death offered up to 24 weeks after conception) in an effort to stay true to the feminist cause; and those protesters just kept making a show outside.
She went on Dallas news shows and verbally trashed them; she had one unusually committed OR protester – Mark Gabriel thrown in jail repeatedly.
“911,” the emergency receptionist would answer.
“It’s Kirsten Breedlove,” she’d say.
“Oh, hey Kirsten. Is it Mark again?”
“We’ll come get him”
For the two years she was a clinic administrator, Mr. Gabriel kept a daily vigil; he tried to block her car; she admits she tried to run over him; he would follow women into the clinic, begging them to reconsider their intentions; Miss Breedlove would perform her 911 routine. She says Mr. Gabriel never was “out of line,” just “passionately aggressive” with his speech.
But all the while, Miss Breedlove’s life was becoming wearisome. An abortionist’s day will take its toll: Spare body parts lie around. Miss Breedlove started taking drugs to go to sleep, and then began staying up all night, rocking in a cradle called cocaine.
Her work was gruesome and cold. Each month she directed about 200 abortions at the clinic that netted her New York owner about $12,000 a month; he geared his business for monetary success. “The workers inside the clinic were not properly trained,” recalls Miss Breedlove. “I called myself the administrator, but I was a 22-year-old LVN [Licensed Vocational Nurse] with no experience at all. My counselors were not trained as counselors. They were high-school graduates with no type of counseling degree at all. I would call them counselors. We gave the girls no alternative choices when I first started doing this…. On a typical day 20 girls were rushed though. It was almost like a factory line. They were just pushed through one at a time. They were given no personal attention …. A good doctor could do a suction abortion in three minutes. … [The women] were sent home and told to come back in two weeks. When they came back all we did was a urine test to make sure they were not still pregnant. The doctor would walk in and say, ‘Good news, you are not still pregnant,’ and then walk out without ever examining her.”
Sometimes Miss Breedlove would try to introduce the patients to the doctors when they came into the room to do the procedure on the prepped subjects. “He would just walk in and start without ever saying hello to the patient” she recalls.
And the back room of the clinic – the “POC Room” (Product of Conception Room) could be a pretty tough place to visit. Huge buckets were filled with baby parts. The clinic owner ignored requests to get the hot water faucet fixed to aid in clean-up. “You would just look in the buckets and see arms and legs. I have horrible dreams about that now. It was something you would see in a scary movie.”
Some of the nine clinic workers actually refused ever to go back there. When Miss Breedlove would ask them to go measure a dead baby’s foot, a standard procedure, some would reply with a flat – no.
More and more Miss Breedlove’s work seemed to move from an altruistic motive of “helping women” to “greed and the love of money.” And those protesters words just kept coming back at her, not to mention the white crosses Mark Gabriel set in the ground outside to memorialize aborted babies. They made the former Catholic high-school student think.
“Around January I noticed a definite change,” she says. Mark and other protesters started asking her to pray with them; something clicked in her and she started talking with them. “They would show me a lot of love. What I used to think was hate was actually love; they would be out there praying for me.”
“Every day I would go in the clinic and hear the same thing over and over again, and I started thinking about what they were saying; questioning my own self.”
Eventually she and the protesters became friends; Miss Breedlove, who performed routine sonograms on every woman considering an abortion, began seeing babies on the screen screen instead of blobs. Then she began doing some thing about it. She felt better when she did. She started asking women to take a look at the screen with her. “You don’t want to abort this. C’mon, I have some people who will help you “ At that point she would walk them outside and introduce them to the protesters, who would take them to a nearby crisis pregnancy center. Jill Busha, the director there, was used by God to lead Miss Breedlove to Christ this March. Kirsten still struggles with old ways, including her addiction to drugs. Her heart has changed, says Mrs. Busha, but she continues to need and receive much nurture and support.
But between January and March of this year, in the days leading up to her conversion, Miss Breedlove’s new commitment to actually counseling women on other options beside abortion contributed to an interesting effect. “We finally went bankrupt,” she says. “We had no money.” One of her workers, Norma McCorvey, just moved shop to another abortion clinic.
“Don’t let the bastards wear you down.” That was talk-show host Tom Snyder’s exhortation to Norma McCorvey at the end of his interview in which she called OR national director Flip Benham more nasty things in a few minutes than the former saloon keeper used to hear in a whole night at the bar.
When Flip and OR moved next door to the A Choice for Women clinic where Miss McCorvey was marketing director, says Religion News Service, she used to call over to OR’s headquarters and mock the former bartender and recovering alcoholic: “Hey Flip, I’ve been over here killing babies all day – ya got any new recipes for Manhattans?”
Not that Flip was any pushover himself. Once on Dallas’s McKinney Avenue, outside a site where Miss McCorvey was promoting her 1994 book, I Am Roe, Flip called out: “Norma McCorvey, your life has caused the deaths of 33 million little baby boys and girls. You ought to be ashamed. How dare you desecrate their blood by selling a book!”
Right away – then and there – Flip saw it: a look in Norma’s eyes that said his words had, for some reason, pierced her heart this time. “And it broke my heart,” she recalls. “And I said, “My God, what have I done?”
In fact, Norma McCorvey was destitute. Her lesbian lifestyle had not met her inner needs; the drugs she took to kill the pain of working in an abortuary didn’t last; and the second thoughts – they were coming around with greater and shattering frequency.
She would walk though parks and see empty swing sets that haunted her. Where were the children? She had helped kill them. One day she forced herself to go look “in the back room” of the clinic where she worked. “The babies were frozen in a freezer,” she told WORLD in an exclusive written interview arranged by Mr. Benham. “Now I wished I had not looked.”
Another time she actually got up in the stirrups where the second trimester abortions were performed. She thought about what it must be like to submit a woman’s bodv and child to such indignity. It was just too much to handle.
To add to matters, the elites of the pro-choice movement continued to disparage her; she knew now that local attorney Sarah Weddington had used her back in 1973 to achieve her own goal of Roe v. Wade. (Norma claims that Sarah herself had had an abortion in Mexico, but kept that availabilitv secret from Norma to keep her pregnant so she could use her to achieve her personal goals – passing Roe v. Wade and becoming a superstar, Supreme Court attorney.) And two years ago a host of pro-abortion elites threw a big partv to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. They did’t invite Norma.
On the other hand, these pro-life folks were getting harder to hate. When OR moved next door in March, volunteer Ronda Mackey started bringing her two little girls with her to work.
“They would see [Miss McCorvey] out at the clinic, and they’d say, “There’s Miss Norma, there’s Miss Norma.” and they’d run and give her hugs. “She just fell in love with them,” recalls Mrs. Mackey. Miss McCorvey started coming by OR headquarters to see the girls and talk with Flip, who shortly after relocating by McCorvey’s offices sat down with Miss McCorvey and profusely apologized for hurting her with his words at the book signing. Mr. Benham and Miss McCorvey actually started traveling together: In New York City once, he took her to David Wilkerson’s Times Square Church.
One day in Dallas Miss McCorvey said she’d like to get some ice cream, so the Mackeys went to get ice cream and lunch. Miss Mackey was having trouble decorating a local crisis pregnancy center, and Miss McCorvey volunteered to help. She said she knew of places to shop that were cheap. The two women took the children with them. Emily hung on Miss McCorvey the entire time. “And Norma asked them to call her Auntie Norma,” recalls Mrs. Mackey. “It was really the girls who broke through.”
One day Emily saw“Miss Norma” and ran out to see her. Miss McCorvey said she was going to make some photocopies; did Emily want to go? Emily said yes, and her mother just told herself: “Emily doesn’t belong to me, she belongs to the Lord.”
Emily got into the truck and went driving with Miss Norma, but not long into their trip it became Emily who was driving Miss Norma. During their shopping venture, Emily asked Miss McCorvey to go to church. Two weeks later Miss McCorvey said she would. That same day OR’s air conditioning went out. Miss McCorvey came over and offered to take the girls over to her clinic where it was cool. Chelsea, Mrs. Mackey’s other daughter, came right back and said, “I don’t like it over there, Momma.” But Emily stayed and when her mother eventually went to pick her up, she asked her girl how it was.
Emily told her that Miss Norma got a crank call, and had told the caller she’d see her in hell. At that point, Emily informed Miss McCorvey that she didn’t have to go to hell; that if she’d ask for forgiveness and repent, God would forgive her. The seven-year-old told the national abortion icon that they could pray “right now.”
That Saturday, Miss McCorvey went to church with the Mackeys. Ronda Mackey walked down the aisle with Miss McCorvey, holding her tightly; Jane Roe kept saying she wanted to help undo all the evil she’s done in the world. “And you could tell it was a true repentance,” says Mrs. Mackey. “She was shining – her face was so different.”
Flip Benham says that Norma McCorvey is a changed person. “[She] shows us abortion is a gospel issue – it isn’t going to be solved politically, there’s no economic answer. It’s a battle between ‘It’s my body and I’ll determine who lives and dies,’ and, ‘Not my will but thine be done.’” So what about Miss McCorvey’s will? Much has been made about her lesbian relationship. Mr. Benham says to give her time. He says that Miss McCorvey’s relationship with “Miss Connie … who kept her alive though overdoses and drunkenness … is basically for all intents and purposes” simply a strong friendship between roommates now; there has been no lesbian sex for years, he says. And, insists Mr. Benham, “Miss Connie wants to meet the Lord.”
Meanwhile, Norma McCorvey’s former handlers have played down her conversion and change of mind.
“It was [McCorvey’s] story and her situation that was the symbol for the movement, not Norma McCorvey herself,” purred Susan Hill of the National Women’s Health Organization to ABC News concerning Miss McCorvey’s conversion.
“The anti-choice movement will just have a field day with this,“was Kate Michelman’s initial response upon hearing that Miss McCorvey had found inner peace and happiness.
“Norma McCorvey didn’t even have an abortion,” crowed her former attorney, Ms. Weddington, upon getting the news.
No, thankfully she didn’t. But their words betray the ultimate shakiness of their amoral moorings, says OR spokesperson Wendy Wright. “They see the unborn as property, to be disposed of if they want,” says Miss Wright. “They’re treating Norma the same way. When she was pregnant, she was valuable to the movement. When she was a loose cannon, she was pushed aside by them, hidden. There’s nothing more to the pro-abortion movement than that. What else can they offer, other than a focal point for anger? The anger, bitterness, the easy, natural human emotions. We offer the harder emotions – the love, the mercy, the forgiveness.”