Other voices: A difficult choice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

The revelation that Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and his wife, Yolanda, chose to have an abortion 30 years ago, before they were married, will probably be discussed for some time to come — especially since Robinson, a likely gubernatorial contender, has already proved to be a lightning rod for controversial topics — like abortion, which he opposes stringently.

But there’s much to learn beyond the heat of the moment and we hope we can all find a little light.

Robinson discussed the event in a video after a Facebook post in which he referenced the abortion surfaced. “Before we were married and before we had kids. We had an abortion,” Robinson said in the video. “It was the hardest decision we have ever made and sadly, we made the wrong one.”

“It’s because of this experience and our spiritual journey that we are so adamantly pro-life,” he added. “We know what it’s like to be in that situation. We know the pain that an abortion causes. …No one is perfect, but no one is too far gone to be saved.”

Many praised Robinson for his forthright approach. “A public confession many years before emerging into public life,” U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte wrote in a tweet Thursday. “Unblinking acknowledgment now. How refreshing.”

We agree. Many politicians today would have hemmed and hawed, denied, spun, prevaricated, excused — but Robinson spoke plainly and openly. That’s commendable.

Others condemned the seeming hypocrisy of trying to eliminate a choice for others that was freely available to him and his wife.

“Everyone needs access to abortion, even Mark Robinson,” Democratic Party spokesperson Rachel Stein said in a news release  Wednesday.

We don’t know if the word “hypocrisy” fits. We all do things that we later regret.

But it does seem as if Robinson’s experience, and that of his wife Yolanda, might lead him to hesitate before criticizing others who feel the need to make the same decision.

Robinson would also be wise to acknowledge that not every woman who has an abortion feels the sense of regret that he does. According to a study published in the academic journal Social Science & Medicine in 2020, 95% of nearly 700 women surveyed over the course of a five-year period indicated that their abortion was the right decision. The emotion most experienced by the survey’s participants was relief.

We don’t know why the Robinsons made this decision — nor do we need to; it’s none of our business. And the same should be true for any woman seeking an abortion. Any woman facing this difficult decision should be met with empathy and understanding rather than the heartless, criminalizing approach that’s been adopted by many Republican legislators today.

Thirty years ago, it’s not likely that Yolanda Robinson had to wade through lines of protesters yelling that she was a “baby killer,” or fight restrictions and requirements that she sit through a presentation of government-mandated medical misinformation, then go home and think about it for a week before continuing, as required in many states today. She certainly didn’t have to face the possibility of receiving the death penalty for having the procedure, as a Republican legislator, Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton, proposed in a bill a year ago.

Bills moving in red states today seem to be vying to be the most extreme. Several exclude exceptions for rape or incest. A bill being considered in Tennessee would allow a rapist’s family members, friends, spouse or neighbors to sue people who help or provide the victim with an abortion. A bill being considered in Missouri would imprison doctors who perform abortions for ectopic pregnancies — pregnancies that are unviable under any circumstances, but threaten the life of the mother if the fetus isn’t removed. These bills victimize women by codifying state-sponsored horror shows.

But none of that moves abortion opponents, who keep moving further to the right, criminalizing the choice that Robinson and his wife were free to make for themselves.

Robinson now stands in a unique position, with the ability, if he so chooses, to lower the temperature rather than raise it — to express some empathy for the hard choices some women have to make rather than demonizing them and attacking them with harsh language and harsher restrictions.

We doubt Robinson will become an ardent pro-choice advocate. But he should certainly have enough humility, enough understanding, to question whether he, or anyone else, should be making these decisions for women. So should we all.

— Winston Salem-Journal