As I wrote in my post, “How abortion proponents view the current abortion landscape,” I have developed a collegial relationship with Robin Marty, pictured right, senior political reporter for RH Reality Check.
This past weekend Robin was in Chicago for a National Organization for Women convention, and we got to meet. She had asked if she could interview me for a piece she’s writing.
Through the course of our lunchtime conversation (which she paid for, thanks!) Robin enlightened me on how abortion proponents view current pro-life efforts, particularly since 2010, when pro-lifers began passing laws in unprecedented numbers. Robin agreed to let me share her thoughts. I’m not going to pick them apart, I simply find them fascinating and thought you might, too.
Robin shocked me when she accused pro-lifers of not playing fair. Of course, pro-lifers think pro-choicers (using Robin’s preferred terminology for this post) are underhanded and conniving. But us?
Robin acknowledged, “It’s fair to say both sides think the other side isn’t playing fair.” But Texas was a glaring example of pro-life chicanery in the eyes of abortion proponents, even as pro-lifers thought just the opposite.
“In Texas you had a legislative session that finished with no abortion bill, and then the governor added a special session,” Robin explained. “And we feel we won that special session. We organized as quickly as we could. We had a massive filibuster.”
What about the infamous mob that kept a vote from happening by midnight?
“I can see how your side can say the debate was finished at 11:48p, and it should have been time for a vote, and we broke the rules by not letting that happen,” said Robin. “But at the same time there was a series of events leading up to those 12 minutes. Our people watched Wendy Davis filibuster and be told she went off-topic [broke filibuster rules], although we thought she was completely on-topic. Those 12 minutes were a culmination of events that led up to them.”
Robin gave another recent example of Republican legislators in North Carolina gutting a bill about Sharia law and inserting pro-life provisions. Robin said such tactics have been disheartening to some pro-choicers, who proceed to walk away from politics. I responded that legislators do this all the time. IMO it’s simply politics. Politics are dirty. Politics aren’t necessarily fair. I reminded her of our classic example of Democrat dirty politics: Obamacare.
“There’s no such thing as common ground,” Robin agreed, “when we believe this is a civil rights issue for women, and you believe it’s a civil rights issue for the unborn. I don’t think we will ever agree.”
“But I think it is interesting that we both have common ground in the opposition,” Robin noted. “There are a lot of parallels between both the pro-choice and pro-life side when it comes to what each side thinks is justified and not justified and thinking the other side is not playing by the rules.”
Robin hearkened back to the Texas fiasco. “Maybe that 12 minutes wasn’t a traditional tactic,” Robin explained, “but in this case it was justified. And on your side, exposing a bloody fetus poster to a 5-yr-old would be justified because that’s what’s necessary for you to make abortion end.”
Robin noted that we both have factions we cannot control. We have factions that move too fast and factions that move too slow. She said we also both now often the same civil justice language.
Is the sky really falling this time?
I so often hear wild exaggerations from the other side that I never know if and when they think something is a real emergency. I asked Robin about this. Do they see these particular times as truly alarming?
“I can only speak for myself and a lot of activists I have talked to,” Robin responded. “‘The sky is falling’ is a bit extreme, but I do think there has been a significant shift. The language has changed, the tactics have changed. Local stories – such as when Ohio added abortion restrictions to their budget, or when North Carolina gutted that bill – are now national news events. There is a sense that abortion access could be changed forever. People who weren’t necessarily engaged are paying attention. The public is becoming more aware that abortion isn’t a settled issue, which many believed was until now.”
Losing my religion
I asked Robin about the perceived thrones of pro-choice power in Washington and New York. Do they call the shots for the movement, and if so, how does the movement like that?
“I do believe a lot of the policy is being made in DC and New York that I don’t think resonates with people who live in the Midwest or South,” Robin responded, “especially messaging that can come across as anti-religious. I think the pro-choice position needs to be discussed in a way that can be taken to churches – embracing faith, family, and community.
Robin noted “a rift between the religious and nonreligious side of our movement.”
How does the movement view Planned Parenthood, I asked?
“The feeling toward Planned Parenthood has more to do with your interaction with them,” said Robin. “I don’t think there is an overarching belief that Planned Parenthood is helping or hurting the movement. It does fantastic work trying to obtain access for contraception. It is also doing quite a bit with litigation and keeping clinics open – not just their own. I think overall Planned Parenthood continues to be something the movement supports.”
Who will win?
Robin answered, “Your side wins if you convince everyone there is a baby at the point of conception. Our side wins if we convince people this fight is not just about disallowing those who don’t want to be pregnant to not be pregnant, but it’s also about stopping people from not getting pregnant in the first place. This will end up being a game of who appeals most to the vast majority of people who aren’t taking a side.
“The topic of contraception is necessary to be discussed. We are focusing more on birth control not because abortion isn’t a winning issue but because we never thought birth control was in jeopardy. That’s frightening to us.”
Thanks to Robin for going out on a limb and accepting her first “hostile” interview, as she put it. I appreciate her candidness.
Sometimes I see everyone on the other side as a big lump of evil people, even though I pray to see them as Jesus does. I’m sure many think the same of us. Robin is a reminder to me that even though we couldn’t be more at odds on the most important issue of our lifetime, many pro-choicers are fellow human beings with good – albeit terribly misled (sorry had to say it :)) – intentions.