Seeing Attacks on Roe as Opportunities

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National Advocates for Pregnant Women is pleased to share Missed Opportunities in McCorvey v. Hill: The Limits of Pro-Choice Lawyering, published in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change. This article is an outgrowth of a speech given by Founder and Executive Director, Lynn Paltrow, at the New York University School of Law as part of a symposium, From Page to Practice: Broadening the Lens for Reproductive and Sexual Rights.

NAPW’s article uses the McCorvey v. Hill case to illustrate how traditional lawyering approaches have missed critical opportunities to use attacks on Roe and other anti-abortion cases as a way to build alliances across the range of issues and movements necessary to protect the right to choose abortion, and more fundamentally the personhood of pregnant women.


In 2003, Norma McCorvey, the original “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade, filed a case seeking to overturn the decision in Roe. Reproductive rights advocates made a decision not to mount a response to the case, legal or otherwise. While these advocates were correct in assuming the case would eventually be thrown out by the courts, the decision not to respond to the case left anti-choice strategists free to use it as a successful short and long-term tool in its organizing and public education efforts to recriminalize abortion, to overturn Roe, and to deprive pregnant women of their status as full persons under the law.


This short article describes the history of the McCorvey case but more importantly outlines what can be done to more effectively counter abortion re-criminalization efforts and to truly advance Reproductive Justice.