Maplewood Journalist Investigates Full Story Behind Roe v. Wade

Joshua Prager's The Family Roe: An American Story centers on Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Split image featuring headshot of author Joshua Prager and the cover of his book, "The Family Roe: An American Story"
In "The Family Roe," Joshua Prager delves deep into the origins of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which was reversed in June. Headshot by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos; book cover courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

Roe v. Wade and abortion have become heavily debated issues this year following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the decision in June. The Family Roe: An American Story, by Joshua Prager, is essential reading to learn the full story. The paperback is out this month.

Prager, a Maplewood resident, spent about 11 years researching the case, searching through countless documents and interviewing several people involved, including Jane Roe, whose real name is Norma McCorvey.

In the book, Prager takes a broad look at the famous court case, particularly at McCorvey’s life both before and after the decision. She had a troubled upbringing and had given birth to two daughters prior to the case.

Prager reveals the identity of McCorvey’s third child as Shelley Lynn Thorton, also known as the Roe baby. As the court proceedings took too long to allow McCorvey to have an abortion, she gave birth to the girl  in June 1970 and put her up for adoption.

The book also covers McCorvey’s life in the decades following Roe v. Wade. In the mid-1990s, she turned to evangelical Protestantism and became an anti-abortion activist, calling her involvement in the case “the biggest mistake of [her] life.”

The book also includes Linda Coffee, the lawyer who represented McCorvey and filed the Texas lawsuit, and Mildred Jefferson, a pro-life leader.

The Family Roe was named a top book of 2021 by NPR, Time and the New York Times, and was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

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