Friday, January 21, 2022 Jan 21, 2022
35° F Dallas, TX
Dallas History

Tracing What Came Before and After Roe v. Wade

Journalist Joshua Prager used a simple question to form the basis of his new book, The Family Roe: An American Story : what happened to the baby at the center of the case?
By  |
Image
She met her longtime partner, Connie Gonzles, in 1971, shortly after her second suicide a tempt. The two cleaned and painted apartments in South Dallas Tammye Nash
Advertisement

Tracing What Came Before and After Roe v. Wade

{{ currentIndex+1 }} / {{ images.length }}

Advertisement

No matter your stance on abortion, you likely don’t know this about Roe v. Wade: in the spring of 1969, Jane Roe, aka Norma McCorvey, was a 21-year-old lesbian who worked at the White Carriage, a gay bar in Dallas. That’s where she met a married World War II vet, twice her age, with whom she played pool and collected bets, despite the fact that he was short one finger. They’d get drunk and stoned together and occasionally have unprotected sex. By September, McCorvey found herself pregnant for the third time.

Her mother was already caring for her first daughter; Dallas attorney Henry McCluskey had helped her get the second adopted by a kind anesthesiologist and his wife in Richardson. The third child, by a third man, was also unwanted by McCorvey. This time she decided an abortion was her best option, so she again sought the counsel of McCluskey to see if there was any way she could obtain one. He advised her it was still against the law. But he had an idea.

McCluskey, a 24-year-old gay man who practiced in a state where his consensual sexual activity could land him in jail for up to 15 years, had recently filed a suit to overturn Texas’ sodomy law with the help of Linda Coffee, another young gay attorney in town. Coffee had been looking for an opportunity to challenge a different portion of the Texas Penal Code—the one that criminalized abortion—but she didn’t have a plaintiff. When McCluskey told Coffee he had a pregnant client who wanted an abortion, all that changed.

The rest of the landmark case’s history, which is revealed in Joshua Prager’s exhaustively researched new book, The Family Roe: An American Story, is equally dramatic. Prager, a long-standing journalist who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Vanity Fair, first became curious when, in 2010, he read an article that noted that Roe v. Wade was decided too late for McCorvey to have an abortion. Prager wondered, What happened to the baby?

His journey started in Dallas with Connie Gonzales, McCorvey’s long-term significant other. Gonzales told Prager that many of the stories McCorvey had told the press over the years (about being raped, about a daughter being kidnapped, about becoming antiabortion) simply weren’t true. What was true: she was a woman whose pseudonym had eclipsed her complex life. The groundbreaking attorneys who represented her would face tragic loss. Her three daughters would eventually meet and try to find a way forward. And the nation-dividing case she set in motion would continue to ignite even after her death.

It’s a stunning read. The excerpt from our January issue is online today.

Author

Kathy Wise

Kathy Wise

View Profile
Kathy Wise has been the executive editor of D Magazine since 2016. At various points before that, she was a…

Related Articles

Image
Dallas History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: When Hollywood Came to Dallas

With the Academy Awards a few weeks away, let's take a look at the Dallas Library's archives to see a few times the stars came to North Texas.
Harish Mysoré
Technology

Access Healthcare Services Names New Chief Investment and Transformation Officer

Harish Mysoré has held leadership roles in the technology, healthcare, and government services industries.