Three leaders of the cause of liberty or conservatism died last week, Norma McCorvey, Michael Novak and Robert Michel.
Norma McCorvey, who died in Texas at age 69, was the “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Roe v. Wade United States Supreme Court ruling that overturned state anti-abortion laws and required States to legalize abortion. In later years, however, she converted to Christianity and to the pro-life side.
Born Norma Nelson in
Louisiana in 1947, the family moved to Texas.
There, she married Woody McCorvey at age 16, but left him. She became pregnant for the third time (her
first two children having been given up for adoption) in 1969, at the age of
21. After being unsuccessful at
obtaining a legal or illegal abortion, she was used as a “pawn,” as she later
asserted, by attorneys seeking plaintiffs to challenge Texas’ abortion prohibition. By the time the case, in which she was a
plaintiff, but for which she did not attend any of the hearings, was heard by
the Supreme Court, McCorvey had given birth and the child was given up for
In 1994, McCorvy wrote her autobiography, I am Roe, in which she expressed her remorse for participating in the case that legalized abortion. She converted to Christianity after being befriended by a leading pro-life activist Christian. The following year, after seeing a poster at the abortion clinic at which she worked about the development of humans from embryos to fetuses, McCorvey realized the immorality of abortion and resigned. She was baptized and then worked for pro-life organizations and participated in pro-life demonstrations. That year, she wrote of her conversion to pro-life in her second book, Won by Love.
McCorvey’s conversion meant that all three of the major participants in the legalization and federalization of abortion, had converted to the pro-life cause. The “Jane Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the Roe v. Wade companion case, in which the Court defined the permissible reasons for abortion so liberally as to establish abortion on demand as a right, and Bernard Nathanson, the Doctor who had championed legalizing abortion, like McCorvey, also became pro-life advocates.
Michael Novak was an influential Catholic philosopher and theologian. The author of over 40 books, who died in
at the age of 83, was committed
to liberty and was best known for his Christian defense of the free market. Novak was also a journalist and served as a
in 1933, Novak received a philosophy degree from Stonehill
College in 1956, a theology degree
from the Pontifical Gregorian University
in Rome two years later and a Master’s Degree in
history and the philosophy of religion from
in 1966. He was a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter during the
Second Vatican Council, during which time he wrote the first of his books. Harvard University
Novak’s books focused on philosophy, religion, culture, the free market and the politics of democratization. His most famous work was The Spirit of Capitalism, which was published in 1982. Among the works he published were novels. Novak won the Templeton Prize in 1994 for progress in religion. He taught as a professor at several universities over the decades and was a founding board member of Ave Maria University. Novak was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent contributor to First Things and National Review.
In the meantime, Novak’s views shifted from liberal to conservative. The lifelong Democrat, who supported Republican candidates, was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, in 1981. Novak served until the following year and was appointed in 1986 by Reagan to lead the U.S. Delegation to the Conference for Security and Cooperation in
Europe. He served
on the board of directors of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which
sought to return the Democratic Party to its anti-Communist and pro-human
rights platform from its Leftist one. Novak
was a founding board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Novak’s philosophy and theology has been highly influential.
Robert “Bob” Michel was the longest-serving Republican Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives. The GOP Minority Leader from 1981-1995, who died in
at the age of 93, was known for his leadership style, characterized by his
ability to negotiate compromises through his friendships with majority
Born in 1923 in
Illinois, Michel served in the Army from
1943-1946 and was wounded in the Second World War and decorated for valor. First elected to the House in 1956, Michel served
as a U.S. Representative for 38 years, from 1957-1995, a time which coincided
with the Republicans’ minority status in the lower chamber of Congress. As Minority Leader, he successfully supported President
Ronald Reagan’s proposed legislation, such as his tax and domestic spending
cuts and military buildup. In Michel’s
last two years, together with Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, he
was successful in maintaining GOP opposition to President William Jefferson Clinton’s
liberal excesses. Even though he was
known for his bipartisanship, Michel compiled a conservative voting
Among Michel’s many awards and honors were the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
May the legacy of McCorvey, Novak and Michel be respect for the right to life, liberty, the free market, representative government and conservative principles of smaller government, federalism, virtue and a strong defense.