Norma McCorvey, most notable for being the plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the 1973 landmark supreme court case Roe v Wade that led to abortion becoming legal in the United States, made a stunning admission just before her death in 2017, it has emerged.

“This is my deathbed confession,” she explained.

In a documentary that is premiering on Friday and is already making waves, McCorvey admits that her infamous reversal on abortion rights “was all an act”.

McCorvey, who died from heart failure at the age of 69, revealed her role as an anti-abortion advocate was largely funded by ultra-conservative groups such as Operation Rescue. She went on to describe herself as “the big fish” in a “mutual” propaganda campaign.

McCorvey gained notoriety with the help of evangelical Christian leaders like Operation Rescue’s founders the Rev Flip Benham and the Rev Rob Schenck. The conservative film Roe v. Wade, starring Jon Voight and Stacey Dash depicted McCorvey’s “conversion” in the famous case of the same name.

“I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say,” she said. “I did it well too, I am a good actress.”

The documentary, called AKA Jane Roe, showing on FX, explores McCorvey’s tumultuous upbringing that entailed incidents of alleged abuse and neglect. She experienced a short-lived marriage as a teenager before a decades-long relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez.

The documentary reveals McCorvey received at least $450,000 in “benevolent gifts” from the anti-abortion movement.

Included in the documentary also are scenes from the presidential election night in 2016, depicting McCorvey’s disappointment as Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.

“I wish I knew how many abortions Donald Trump was responsible for,” she quipped in the scene. “I’m sure he’s lost count, if he can count that high.”

Wow: Norma McCorvey (aka “Roe” of Roe v Wade) revealed on her deathbed that she was paid by right-wing operatives to flip her stance on reproductive rights.

So, like many right-wing operations, it turns out a huge part of the anti-choice movement was a scam the entire time. https://t.co/XBwvPKmSqU

Nick Sweeney, who directed the film, told the Los Angeles Times its goal was not to add to the abortion debate, but to explore more of the life of a woman who he described as an “enigmatic person at the center of this very divisive issue”.

“With an issue like this there can be a temptation for different players to reduce ‘Jane Roe’ to an emblem or a trophy,” he said. “Behind that is a real person with a real story. Norma was incredibly complex.”

In the film, the Rev Schenck, after viewing McCorvey’s confession, confides he “never heard her say anything like this” but that movement leaders knew what we were doing, adding “there were times when [he] was sure she knew”.

“I wondered, ‘Is she playing us?’” he said. “What I didn’t have the guts to say was, ‘because I know damn well we’re playing her’.”

McCorvey’s opinion toward abortion evolved throughout much of her life, but what stayed consistent was the feeling she was used as a pawn by both sides in the debate.

As far as her thoughts on abortion at the time of her death, McCorvey made sure to set the record straight: “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice,” she said.

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