Review – AKA Jane Roe

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, May 29th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: that bombshell documentary everyone in the media seemed to be talking about last week: AKA Jane Roe.

And just a quick warning to parents. Some of the film’s content may not be suitable for younger children. So if you’re listening with your kids, you might want to hit pause and come back later.

CLIP: So the Jane Roe of Roe versus Wade is now a Christian and pro-life. Could you tell us how that happened? I was desperately ashamed of being Jane Roe when I was on the other side.

Before its release, AKA Jane Roe generated tens of thousands of headlines featuring words like “stunning” and “shocking.” But four days after it hit television screens, almost no major media outlets have reviewed it. Not The New York Times, not The Huffington Post, not USA Today, not The Los Angeles Times, and not The Washington Post. In fact, not any of the publications that received early access to the film and first broke the news about McCorvey’s revelations.

That’s significant because the film’s purported aim is to give us an understanding of the “real” Jane Roe. But director Nick Sweeney makes little attempt to actually do that. Over two hours, he allows McCorvey to frame her own legend as it suits her, failing to push her beyond the personal animosities and alliances she feels in a particular moment.

Everything that comes before and after McCorvey’s “deathbed confession” is engineered to serve the big twist. Her pro-life conversion in the 1990s was, she says here, an act. 

CLIP: You know I took their money and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say and that’s what I’d say.

It was all an act? Yeah, I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course I’m not acting now.

Ta-da! Sweeney the magician pulls the tablecloth from under the neatly set pro-life narrative. The abortion-friendly press goes wild.

Lest we miss the point, there are several immediate replays. The camera then cuts to lingering reactions from pro-choice representatives. Gloria Allred gasps. Frustrated tears well in the eyes of abortion activist Charlotte Taft.

CLIP: That’s, that just really hurts. It’s big stakes, that’s all. It’s just really big stakes.

But how real is this? McCorvey herself gives us reason to question. 

CLIP: I can’t speculate as to why she did what she did. Now, whether she really believes that, I don’t know. 

McCorvey readily admits she delights in provoking dramatic responses. 

CLIP: I had never heard her say anything like this, never. But I knew what we were doing and there were times I was sure she knew. And I wondered, is she playing us?

The obvious solution, then, would have been for Sweeney to show McCorvey the footage and record her reaction closely. Instead, he allows her to keep striking swaggering poses without cross examination. 

CLIP: Did they use you as a trophy? Of course. I was the big fish. 

These kinds of statements are common to the confessional booth on reality shows like The Bachelor, but we expect more from a documentary. Sweeney never probes the places where McCorvey’s bravado is inconsistent with her actions. 

It’s a shame because there are a few unguarded moments when something deeper comes through. We see that McCorvey’s instinct for survival was bred from a wrenchingly hard life.

CLIP: Once she started drinking I really didn’t want to be around her. She’d get up and she’d slap me. It would make me feel insignificant and worthless.

Viewers get broad strokes of her childhood exactly as she tells it. She was attracted to girls, so she ran away to an Oklahoma hotel room at age 10 and had a sexual encounter with a female friend the same age.

It would be the height of understatement to say something like that, so early in life, raises the question of whether McCorvey suffered abuse before the incident. Incredibly, Sweeney doesn’t ask. Instead, he does what he accuses the pro-life movement of. He frames the event to suit his agenda: McCorvey’s lesbianism equals thwarted identity.

CLIP: She knew that if it were known that she was a lesbian, that she would be kicked out. 

Again and again, Sweeney shrinks away from conflicts with the potential to offer more insight. Like when he allows McCorvey to shrug off the fact that she lied about being raped in her pivotal case. 

CLIP: You were raped? I thought I’ll just go ahead and tell the truth. Why not? No, I wasn’t. You were not? No, I wasn’t. So all those stories are not true? Yes sir, yes. They’re not true? Right. 

Tragically, McCorvey seems to see her own identity as so intertwined with Roe, she doesn’t know who she is or what value she has apart from it. She holds out the significance of her life story as a carrot. Then, understandably, resents it when the world, once more, reduces her to a figurehead.

Both the documentary and the coverage it generated fail her in the same old way. In AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey is a symbol still.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this 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. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.