The original ‘Roe baby’

The Atlantic magazine has featured the baby at the centre of the Roe v Wade case.

Shelley, now 51, was the foetus that her mother Norma McCorvey wanted to abort. Ms McCorvey, anonymous at the time, won the constitutional right to abortion for all American women. But not in time to abort her own baby. She bore Shelley and gave her up for adoption.

Shelley, who has three children of her own, spoke to The Atlantic about the reality of her life as someone who shouldn’t have been born.

As the US refocuses attention on the 1973 Roe v Wade, and with concerns that it may be weakened to the point of ineffectuality, Shelley’s story is being reprised as the original “Roe baby”.

According to The Atlantic, anti-abortion-rights activists have claimed Shelley “as a metaphor for their cause” but she herself feels that “if she … could be said to represent anything, it was not the sanctity of life but the difficulty of being born unwanted”.

Originally published at on September 10, 2021.

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Sign up for free email updates on email me at

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