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The Plaintiff In The Landmark Supreme Court Case Legalizing Abortion Dies

Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, was 69 and suffered from a heart ailment.

Posted on February 18, 2017, at 2:11 p.m. ET

Chris Kleponis / AFP / Getty Images

The woman behind the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, has died at an assisted living facility in Texas at age 69, the Washington Post reported.

Norma McCorvey was 22 years old, poor, and suffering from addiction when in 1970 she sought a safe abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy in Texas. In most states at the time, abortions were illegal unless the mother's life was in danger.

Lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee filed a lawsuit on behalf McCorvey, and it took it all the way up to the Supreme Court.

When in 1973 the Supreme Court announced its 7-to-2 decision — which established a constitutional right to an abortion — McCorvey's child was two and a half years old. She had given the child up for adoption and learned about the historic ruling in the newspaper, according to the Washington Post.

“I’m a simple woman with a ninth grade education who wants women to not be harassed or condemned,” she told the New York Times in 1994. “I just wanted the privilege of a clean clinic to get the procedure done. … I just never had the privilege to go into an abortion clinic, lay down and have an abortion. That’s the only thing I never had.”

McCorvey filed her lawsuit anonymously and didn't reveal her identity until 1980, when she publicly supported abortion rights. She later became a born-again Christian and threw her support behind anti-abortion activists.

“I think it’s safe to say that the entire abortion industry is based on a lie … I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name,” McCorvey said in a pro-life advertisement from 2013.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.