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Norma McCorvey, who was 22, unwed, mired in addiction and poverty, and desperate for a way out of an unwanted pregnancy when she became Jane Roe, the pseudonymous plaintiff of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that established a constitutional right to an abortion, died Feb. 18 at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Tex. She was 69.
According to the most sympathetic tellings of her story, she was a victim of abuse, financial hardship, drug and alcohol addiction, and personal frailty. For much of her life, she subsisted at the margins of society, making ends meet, according to various accounts, as a bartender, a maid, a roller-skating carhop and a house painter. She found a measure of stability with a lesbian partner, Connie Gonzalez, but even that relationship reportedly ended in bitterness after 35 years.