You’ve undoubtedly seen the headlines by now: North Carolina’s perpetually controversial Lt. Governor, Mark Robinson – a man given to frequent public bouts of anti-Semitism and homophobia – has become enmeshed in yet another political storm of his own making. This time, the subject is abortion.
After an old story came to light about Robinson paying for an abortion more than three decades ago for his wife, Yolanda, prior to their marriage, the lieutenant governor – a fierce present-day opponent of abortion rights – took to electronic media to proclaim the decades-old action “wrong.”
In a Facebook video post, Robinson sat next to his wife and said, “It was the hardest decision we have ever made, and, sadly, we made the wrong one.” He then went on to explain what he described as their shared view that the experience had helped lead the couple to their strong opposition to abortion. (Strikingly, Yolanda Robinson is silent throughout the video.)
In the days since the new revelation, observers and advocates have, not surprisingly, offered sharply varying assessments.
Among Robinson’s supporters and allies in the anti-abortion rights movement, the news was greeted with statements of tolerance, sympathy and support and portrayed as the latest in a line of statements from Americans who’ve supposedly seen the error of their previous ways.
Meanwhile, amongst supporters of reproductive freedom, Robinson has been roundly criticized for his blatant hypocrisy. A member of the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News & Observer aptly described him as a “moral fraud.”
In some ways, both assessments are appropriate. Yes, Robinson is a moralizing hypocrite, but it’s also true that he and his wife are entitled to change their minds about this intensely personal issue – and even to feel a strong desire to share and promote what they say are now their beliefs.
Interestingly, however, what’s received less attention in the public discussion that’s followed is the issue that is by far of most importance to the people of North Carolina: the substance of Robinson’s current stated policy position on abortion rights.
Mark Robinson is the highest-ranking Republican in North Carolina state government. He has said he intends to run for governor in two years’ time.
While it’s one thing for such a person to have undergone a personal experience and developed strong personal feelings about a highly controversial issue, it’s quite another for them to argue that those personal feelings should be imported into the state’s criminal code.
And it is this rather remarkable and widely underreported fact about Robinson that deserves a much more thorough public airing.
Robinson says abortion – a safe, simple, and age-old medical procedure that is lawful in the overwhelming majority of nations (including throughout the United States for half a century), and that the large majority of the American people believe should remain that way – is murder and should be treated by the law as such.
As he did in a speech last June, Robinson even goes so far as to say that there should be no exceptions for women forcibly impregnated through rape and incest. According to the Robinson, once someone becomes pregnant, “it’s not (her) body anymore.” In other words, it is Robinson’s argument that a microscopic, fertilized egg – with an average size less than the width of a human hair – should take precedence over the life, health, and well-being of the fully-developed human to whom it belongs.
It’s hard to overstate what a frighteningly radical stance this is.
What’s more, it’s quite possible that it could be much more than mere rhetoric. As a handful of Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have demonstrated in recent years, the anti-abortion movement is deadly serious about enacting laws that roll back abortion rights (and even access to birth control) in ways that correlate with Robinson’s frighteningly extreme views.
Sadly, we don’t have to guess about what would happen if such laws were ever enacted here. We need only look back into the troubling recesses of American history or to the experiences of women in modern misogynistic and authoritarian societies like Iraq, Nicaragua and the Philippines.
Simply put, people will suffer and die. From botched illegal and self-induced abortions; from the domestic violence that’s often visited by men on their pregnant partners; from the inherent danger that comes with being forced to carry pregnancies to term and give birth (a danger that far exceeds the risks associated with abortion); and from the often-debilitating and life-shortening burden that comes with being forced to bear and raise children against one’s will.
The bottom line: Lt. Governor Robinson is entitled to his belief that he and his wife were “wrong” to exercise the freedom of conscience long afforded to all Americans when it comes to the intensely private decision of whether to end a pre-viability pregnancy. He is unmistakably wrong, however, in his belief that this is a decision he or any other politician, religious leader or advocate has the right to make for anyone else.