Shelley Lynn Thornton, Roe v. Wade Baby: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

shelley lynn thornton

ABC News screenshot/Getty Shelley Lynn Thornton and Norma McCorvey

Shelley Lynn Thornton is the baby of Roe vs. Wade plaintiff Norma McCorvey.

McCorvey’s pregnancy led to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that found a constitutional right to abortion. However, before the case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, she had the baby. That baby’s name was not known for years, but, in 2021, Thornton came forward to reveal her identity. Many people don’t realize that Roe’s baby was not aborted.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, finding that the right to an abortion is not in the U.S. Constitution. That has some people wondering about the Roe baby – Shelley Lynn Thornton.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Thornton Revealed Her Name in a Lengthy Atlantic Profile & Spoke to ABC News


ABC News Exclusive: 'Baby Roe' breaks her silenceABC News' Linsey Davis sits down with the woman at the center of the landmark 'Roe vs. Wade' abortion case, Shelley Thornton, also known as 'Baby Roe.'2021-10-05T01:27:15Z

Thornton decided to reveal her identity to The Atlantic in 2021 in a story by journalist Joshua Prager.

“Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, never had the abortion she was seeking. She gave her baby girl up for adoption, and now that baby is an adult. After decades of keeping her identity a secret, Jane Roe’s child has chosen to talk about her life,” he wrote.

You can read that article in full here.

For years, he wrote, the Roe baby’s name was known only to an attorney in Dallas, Texas, named Henry McCluskey. She was adopted. According to the Atlantic article, “Norma’s personal life was complex. She had casual affairs with men, and one brief marriage at age 16. She bore three children, each of them placed for adoption. But she slept far more often with women, and worked in lesbian bars.”

According to the Atlantic, McCorvey was “ambivalent about abortion. “ She thought it should be legal for the first three months. She did not have the abortion because of the “length of the legal process.”

Thornton also revealed her identity in a televised interview with ABC News.


2. Thornton Was Born in Dallas & Didn’t Know She Was the Roe Baby for Years


‘Baby Roe’ speaks outHere is a preview of the first TV interview with the woman at the center of the landmark Roe vs. Wade case. SUBSCRIBE to GMA3's YouTube page: bit.ly/3kNlst8 VISIT GMA's homepage: abc.com/shows/gma3-what-you-need-to-know FOLLOW GMA3: Facebook: facebook.com/abcgma3 Twitter: twitter.com/abcgma3 Instagram: instagram.com/abcgma32021-10-04T21:34:42Z

In her first televised interview, Thornton said, “A lot of people didn’t know that I existed.” Initially, the ABC News interviewer said, she was “oblivious” to the fact she was the Roe baby.

“I understand that it has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t revolve around me. I wasn’t the one who created this law. I am not the one who created this movement,” Thornton told ABC News.

She said she ignores the issue so it will “go away, but it never does.”

The interview, in 2021, said she was then 51.

“I’ve ignored it for this many years, and it hasn’t gone away. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said of the fact she is the Roe baby.

The Atlantic journalist tracked down Thornton through her adoptive mother, Ruth. Thornton called the author and said she wished to meet her half-sisters by Norma.

“Secrets and lies are, like, the two worst things in the whole world,” she said to the Atlantic. “I’m keeping a secret, but I hate it.”

The adoptive parents lived in Dallas and were named Ruth Schmidt and Billy Thornton. It was Ruth who chose the name Shelley Lynn. They had no idea at first that she was the Roe baby, according to the Atlantic article, which said that the girl was “partial to spaghetti and pork chops and Cheez Whiz casserole.”

Her adoptive father later left the family. Thornton became interested in her birth parents. She struggled with anxiety, telling The Atlantic, “When someone’s pregnant with a baby,” she reflected, “and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted.”


3. Thornton Went to Secretarial School

Norma McCorvey 1990s, Norma McCorvey roe vs wade, Norma McCorvey supreme court

GettyNorma McCorvey, the woman at the center of the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion, testifies before a US Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee during hearings on the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Getty)

Thornton enrolled in Highline High and secretarial school.

McCorvey revealed she was Roe in 1989.

She then sought to find Thornton, according to the Atlantic, turning to the National Enquirer.

The girl was born in Dallas County on June 2, 1970, according to The Atlantic, which allowed McCorvey to trace Thornton. A private investigator told Thornton, “Unfortunately, your birth mother is Jane Roe,” the Atlantic recalled.

Thornton was “shaking all over and crying.”

“I had the best time,” Thornton told ABC News of her adoptive parents. She said she felt loved “completely, 100%.” She didn’t looked for her biological parents, but McCorvey looked for her.

She said people “jumped out of this van” and asked if she ‘was Shelley.” They told her sthey had been looking for her. She was 18.

She was worried everyone would hate her and blame her for abortion being legal and “completely broke down,” she told ABC News.

She kept it a secret for a long time.

“It’s a lot of weight. It’s pretty big,” she told ABC News.


4. Thornton Keeps Her Stance on Abortion to Herself

when is roe v wade decisione expected

GettyThe Roe vs. Wade decision was overturned on June 24, 2022.

Asked if she was for or against abortion, Thornton, according tothe Atlantic writer, “finally offered, she told me, that she couldn’t see herself having an abortion.” The private investigator who found her recalled her being “pro-life.”

Thornton told ABC News that she didn’t grow up knowing anything about abortion. It wasn’t talked about in her family, ABC News said. If someone couldn’t take care of their baby in her adoptive family, a family member would step up and take care of the child, she said.

Asked by ABC News is she had an opinion on abortion, Thornton said: “I do. It’s an opinion that I keep pretty close to my chest because I don’t want either side or both sides coming at me. I’m not going to let either side use me.”

She was wearing a cross necklace during that interview. She said the cross was a matching cross necklace that matches her half-sister’s necklace.

McCorvey told Thornton “I knew I couldn’t take care of you.” And that she had “always” wondered about her, The Atlantic reported.

“I want her to know,” the Enquirer quoted Norma as saying, according to The Atlantic: “I’ll never force myself upon her. I can wait until she’s ready to contact me—even if it takes years. And when she’s ready, I’m ready to take her in my arms and give her my love and be her friend.”

But Thornton also said about abortion, “I guess I don’t understand why it’s a government concern,” the article noted.

“How could you possibly talk to someone who wanted to abort you?” McCorvey once said, according to the Atlantic.


5. Thornton Had a Conflictual Relationship With McCorvey

abortion protesters

GettyPro-life activist Bill Rosanelli (R) of Montague, New Jersey, and local pro-choice activist Leanne Libert (L) hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the “March for Life” event January 24, 2005 in Washington, DC. The annual anti-abortion march marked the 32nd anniversary of the landmark Roe Vs Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

Thornton’s relationship with McCorvey was fractious at times.

Thornton described one angry conversation to the Atlantic, saying, “I told her I would never, ever thank her for not aborting me.”

According to what Thornton told ABC News, she believed McCorvey tried to find her for publicity and was using her.

Thornton married and became a mother herself.

READ NEXT: Read the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Overturning Roe v Wade.

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