WASHINGTON (AFP) - Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the case that led to the Supreme Court's controversial Roe versus Wade ruling that legalised abortion in the United States in 1973, died on Saturday (Feb 18). She was 69.
She died of heart failure in a Texas assisted-living facility, said Joshua Prager, a New York journalist who has written about her in Vanity Fair magazine.
McCorvey was known as "Jane Roe" in the case as she fought for the constitutional right to an abortion, a hot-button social issue that has divided the American public roughly in half for decades.
She became a hero to abortion rights supporters but a villain to those seeking to outlaw abortion. Years later, in 1995, she announced she had switched her allegiance to the anti-abortion movement.
The Roe versus Wade decision was handed down on Jan 22, 1973, with seven justices backing it and two dissenting.
In the four decades since the Supreme Court ruling, tens of millions of legal abortions have been performed in the country.
The ruling ended a lengthy legal drama that had begun in the state of Texas three years earlier, where abortions were permitted only in cases in which pregnancies endangered the mothers or children.
A single mother who had had a rough childhood, McCorvey was pregnant for a third time and wanted an abortion.
Encouraged by two feminist lawyers, she filed suit against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade over the Texas law under the pseudonym Jane Roe.
Although her child was born, the case took on a life of its own, becoming one of the most important and best-known decisions ever made by the Supreme Court.
McCorvey later became a fervent abortion opponent, converting to evangelical Protestantism and then Catholicism. She also declared herself a lesbian.