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Woman in key US abortion case Roe v Wade dies aged 69

Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym Jane Roe led to the US Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalised abortion, has died aged 69.

Ms McCorvey died at an assisted living centre in Katy, Texas, said journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about Ms McCorvey and who was with her and her family when she died. He said was suffering from heart failure.

Ms 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 the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling that established abortion rights, though by that time Ms McCorvey had given birth and given her daughter up for adoption.

Decades later, Ms 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'm 100% pro-life. 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, Ms 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.

But a year later, she was baptised before network TV cameras by a most improbable mentor: The Rev Philip "Flip" Benham, the leader of Operation Rescue, now known as Operation Save America.

Ms McCorvey joined the cause and staff of Mr Benham, who had befriended her when the anti-abortion group moved next door to the abortion clinic where she was working.

Ms McCorvey also said that 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 Ms McCorvey happily involved with Operation Rescue.

But by August of that year, she had changed faiths to Catholicism. And though she was still against abortion, she had left Operation Rescue, saying she had reservations about the group's confrontational style.

She formed her own group, Roe No More Ministry, in 1997 and travelled around the country speaking out against abortion. In 2005, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by Ms McCorvey to the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling.

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.

AP

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