Friday, September 20, 2013


Interview with Dr. Susan Robinson, One of the Last Four Doctors in America to Openly Provide Third-Trimester Abortions

There are only four American doctors left who openly include third-trimester abortion in their practice. They're profiled in the new documentary After Tiller, which opens in New York tonight. All four of these doctors were close friends and colleagues of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in Kansas in May 2009, and they take on significant personal risks in their fight to keep late abortion available; they believe in their work deeply, while understanding that many people view it as murder. Fewer than 1% of abortions in this country are performed in the third trimester. It's illegal in all but 9 states, and according to a 2011 Gallup poll, only 10% of Americans are in favor of the practice.

Susan Robinson is one of these four doctors. We spoke on the phone earlier this week.

You've been practicing medicine since the seventies as an OB-GYN, and you started off your career in a Catholic hospital. I'm guessing that there wasn't much talk of abortion there?

Oh, absolutely not. I did my fellowship and residency in perinatology, which is high-risk obstetrics, and we weren't ever supposed to discuss abortion. For example, if we were performing an amniocentesis and detected an abnormality, even a possibly fatal one, we were never supposed to even suggest the option to the mother. Instead we told them that the test was there to help them prepare for the reality of having that child.

Have you always been pro-choice?

I have. My sister had an abortion before it was legal, and it never occurred to me that there was anything morally wrong with what she did. It was a horrible time for her to be pregnant and it was horrible time for her to get un-pregnant. But, through medical school and residency, it never really came before my consciousness that I wasn't doing abortions personally. I never thought about it until David Gunn was shot in Pensacola, which is when I realized how actively people were trying to scare doctors out of providing abortions. I filed that thought away in my mind, sort of hoping that people wouldn't get pushed out out of the field; I didn't know yet that these doctors are very hard to scare.

Then I was living in the Boston area, and there were the shootings at Brookline, and that really knocked me off my chair. I said to the people I worked for, "I am going to do abortions at Planned Parenthood." And although we weren't supposed to do abortions in that practice, everyone there said, "I get it."

And now you've been doing abortion exclusively for thirteen years. You also teach in the field. How does abortion practice and education fit within the landscape of medicine?

Among doctors, I get two distinct reactions. I say I do abortion medicine, and they either say "Thank you so much for what you do," or they turn away in disgust. It's not like if you're a neurosurgeon or a perinatologist, and people go, "Oh really! How amazing," and they defer to you. In the hierarchy of medical specialties, abortion medicine is very low.

But the doctors who are pro-choice, and the doctors who tell you that they either would do it themselves if they could or dared to: they'll often go out of their way to express appreciation. I've had doctors tell me that they themselves had late abortions because of fetal abnormalities.

If I were a medical student and wanted to specialize in abortion medicine, would it be difficult for me to get training?

Not for first and second trimester abortions. I think about half of residencies in family medicine or OB offer first-trimester experience as either an opt-in or opt-out part of training. There are Ryan fellowships, also, for people seeking this training, and you'd come out of that knowing how to do second-trimester abortions. But if you wanted to learn how to do later abortion, you'd have to come to one of the three clinics that performs them, and ask them if they're willing to take on a trainee.

Do you get trainees? Are young people willing to commit to this profession?

Yes! We just finished a year of training with a family medicine doctor. Not only is she wonderful with her patients, but she's brilliant with her hands and so compassionate and smart. We were so happy to have her.

I read an interview with you recently where you talked about Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who cut off his hand in order to escape being trapped underneath a boulder. You said that women having third-trimester abortions need them the way that Aron needed to cut off his hand. Can you tell me more about that? What's the difference between how people perceive late abortions and what you see at your clinic?

I think that the public perceives first of all that late abortion could be completely eliminated if people would only get their act together and have their abortions earlier, which is completely untrue.

I also think that people assume that women do this casually—that they've known they were pregnant for thirty weeks and then were on their way down to the hair salon and they saw the abortion clinic and they decided to just walk in to avoid the inconveniences of motherhood. That also is completely untrue. No matter how available birth control and first-trimester and second-trimester abortion is, you are always going to have the need for later abortions. A woman would never do this casually. The procedure lasts three or four days, and is fairly disagreeable.

Three or four days, I had no idea.

Yes. It depends on what kind of a cervix you have, but in some cases it can go from Tuesday to Saturday.

Can you tell me more about the "these people need to get their act together" argument?

Well, a large percentage of our patients had no idea that they were pregnant. People go, "How could this possibly be?" Well, look at that reality show. It happens. Maybe you're a little heavy and you already have irregular periods, or you had intercourse once, several months ago, and the guy said he pulled out and there's no sex education in your school so you think everything's fine. Or you never have periods because you're very thin, or a doctor has told you you were infertile.

I could tell you a million reasons why women who are perfectly smart—and they are, these are not stupid women—don't come to know they are pregnant. They have no weight changes, they don't feel sick, they don't feel movement, or if they do they think it's gas. Suddenly someone says, "Hmm, your stomach's looking big, have you taken a pregnancy test?" And the person may have taken a test, and it may have come out negative—I've had women that only got a positive on their third test. And either way they think they just got pregnant. They have no idea they're in their 24th week. So they make an appointment for an abortion, and it takes a few weeks, and they have their ultrasound and find out that they're at 27 weeks, which is too far for an abortion anywhere. So then what happens? They either give up or have a baby, or they go on the Internet and they find us.

What's the farthest that someone's ever traveled to come to you?

I guess probably from Afghanistan. This was a woman in the US military, a woman who couldn't get leave to get her abortion until she was that far along. I've also had women from Saudi Arabia, where seeking or doing an abortion is a capital crime, and a couple people from the UK and France. We get them from Canada all the time, although the Canadians are very good with abortion care up to 24 weeks. And all the states, definitely; women have come to us from every state.

The decision on whether to carry out these abortions is up to you completely. In what sort of situation do you say no?

It gets tricky, of course. The further along a woman is with a fetus that's healthy—that's really where it gets hard. If someone finds out about a significant fetal anomaly that's bad enough that they want to terminate the pregnancy, then I believe that's their discretion. Some feel like, "Sure, I can take care of a kid with Down's no problem," and then two months later they're told that the baby also has an irreparable cardiac defect. They're told that the baby will have to have a dozen surgeries in its first year, with a very small chance that it will live past a certain age. And in those cases I see it as the parents' discretion, if they think their child's life will be filled with too much pain and suffering.

There's a disabled-rights side to this, and I don't doubt the ability of people with disabilities to find happiness and fulfillment in their lives, but what I have a problem with is the "I could have been aborted" line. Hell, I'm glad I wasn't aborted too! I just find that argument specious. When parents are saying, "We do not feel we can adequately cope with that issue," I believe them, and I don't think they'd have an easy time putting a child with severe disabilities up for adoption successfully.

So how do you draw lines in the case of a healthy fetus?

It's hard. Essentially I have to say to myself, "Is this a very compelling story?" And I feel very bad about that because who am I to say, "Well, it's compelling because you're 11," and then I see a similar case when the girl's 14 and I think, okay… but then, what if you're 15, what if you're 16? How do we draw these lines? What is the ethical difference between doing an abortion at 29 and 32 weeks? Is there a meaningful ethical difference? Can I justify it? Will I have to justify it, and to whom?

It comes down to a question of safety, many times. If I feel that there is a likelihood that there will be complications, and I won’t be able to finish the procedure in the office—and we’re an office, not a surgery center—I will only do the procedure if there is a fetal anomaly. Not for elective procedures. And I say “elective” as if the woman is choosing between pairs of shoes, and it’s not like that, not even close, but I will turn that patient down. For example, in the movie, I had a patient from France and she just desperately did not want to be pregnant—but she was 35 weeks, and gestational age is plus or minus three weeks, so she could've been at 38 weeks, and that’s just too far along. It wouldn’t be safe.

From the documentary, and from talking to you now, it seems like you evaluate each case one by one, along many dimensions; you seem really engaged with the specific difficulty of every case. 

Yes. Absolutely. I also have to take other judgments into account. I might accept an 11-year-old incest victim even if I believe the procedure will be risky, because I’ll be able to trust that if I have to transport her to the hospital, people will understand why I accepted her as a patient, and it won’t result in the clinic getting closed down.

Do you often have patients that require emergency care like that?

Well, not often, but things go wrong when you do abortions. They don't usually go seriously wrong, but it’s a complex procedure. Still, if you compare abortion at any gestational age to childbirth, childbirth is significantly more likely to kill the mother than abortion, which is something that no OB-GYN will ever tell you.

I was really moved and amazed by the scene where you're writing down a baby’s name, noting the family’s request for a memory box and a viewing, showing the little ink footprints. Do families often want to engage with their baby like this after an abortion? How many people are ready to—as you say—say hello to their baby at the same time that they’re telling it goodbye? 

With fetal anomaly patients, we ask them right up front if they plan to hold their baby after it's born. These patients, their emotional needs are so different from the ones who are looking at their pregnancy as an absolute disaster, who are just thinking, “Get it out of me, please, please, please.” Those patients—the maternal indications patients—they are not relating to their fetus as a baby, they’re relating to it as a problem.

But with a fetal indications patient—if she refers to it as her baby, I'll refer to it as her baby. If she’s named the baby, I’ll use the baby’s name too. I would say that most of these patients do decide to see and hold their baby, although many of them have a hard time dealing with the idea at first. We’ll take remembrance photographs, we’ll give them a teddy bear, the footprints. I mean, imagine being six months pregnant and finding out your baby’s missing half its brain, and you’ve got this nursery you’ve painted at home, you’re so ready—I don’t want them to go home from the procedure with absolutely nothing to remember and honor the baby, and its birth.

Wow. You’ll say “birth”?

Yes. I try to mirror what will be the most consoling to the patient. In general, these patients—fetal indications—do talk about giving birth, so I’ll say that as well.

What is it like watching these patients say goodbye?

It is very difficult. It’s the saddest thing on earth, I think sometimes. They cry, and I cry, and sometimes they’ll ask for a baptism or a prayer. I’ve got some little non-denominational prayers that I’ll say with the families.

To simultaneously sustain these ideas—that you desperately loved and wanted this baby that’s here in your arms, and also that you just committed yourself to ending its life—it's one of the most complicated emotional situations I can imagine. In these cases—I am sorry for this macabre question—the baby is dead, right? They never meet their baby alive? 

That’s not macabre! That’s a good question. Yes, that’s the first part of the procedure. We sedate the patient and euthanize their fetus, their baby, with an injection. The fetus passes away, doesn’t feel anything.

What is harder for you, what you see on the inside of the clinic or the resistance you get from the outside?

Oh, of course, the inside. By far, it's the hardest and also the most rewarding. The total sadness of the fetal anomaly patients, the gratitude and relief of the maternal patients as they leave—the idea of being able to be with someone at a time of crisis and actually make it better for them. You can't solve their problems, you can’t erase what this pregnancy and this procedure is going to mean to them, but you can ease their pain and their transition by facilitating their saying goodbye, by being kind to them, by listening, by not interrupting, by not judging them for what they feel they need to do.

Are you afraid for your personal safety on a day-to-day basis?

I’ve had a lot of advice on security. I’ve had FBI, federal marshals, domestic terrorism people advising me. I don’t like to talk about what I do specifically to protect myself, but this is an aspect of the job, certainly. Put it this way, I’ve read Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear a few times.

How do you see reproductive rights in the political arena right now?

I see things moving crazily to the right. I think that the extreme, right-wing, misogynist religious fanatics have basically hijacked the Republican party and are moving toward being able to hijack the Democrats too. I'm appalled at the hubris of these legislators who, one after another,  think they can make more sensible decisions about a woman's personal, private reproductive decisions than the woman herself. They know nothing about these situations. They don't know a thing about later abortions, or why women seek them out, and yet they presume that they should be making these decisions.

I don't think this belongs in the legislature at all. The decision on abortion belongs to the woman, to her family, to her clergy person if she has one, to her doctor. Women don't ever need legislators telling them what to do with the contents of their uterus.

What do you hope people come away with after seeing the film, or reading this?

I really hope that they'll understand that these late abortion decisions are carefully made by these women. They have been thought out, wrestled with, agonized over. They are never casual. And the need for late-term abortions will never go away.


177 Comments / Post A Comment


Susan Robinson, you are wonderful.


@ponymalta Seconded.


Funny.... thats it! Thanks@m


so awesomeeeeeee@k


Thank you, Jia, for another amazing interview. I might have to go lock myself in the bathroom and cry for a bit, but that was incredibly well done.


@Blushingflwr Yes, I had to close my office door for a moment.


Thank you for sharing this, Jia and Dr. Robinson.


@Whatnot Wow, excellent interview. Thanks, Jia, for bringing this here. And thanks to Dr. Robinson. Her compassion alone is just...incandescent, for lack of a better word. phu quoc Tours

Lily Rowan

Thanks for your work, Dr. Robinson.

Thanks for yours too, Jia.


This needs to be in the New York Times.


Wow, excellent interview. Thanks, Jia, for bringing this here. And thanks to Dr. Robinson. Her compassion alone is just...incandescent, for lack of a better word.


I will admit to having been a person that was very much against third trimester abortions. This interview gave me so much to think about, and I'm grateful for that. Thank you Jia, and thank you Dr. Robinson for the brave, compassionate work you do.


This was a great interview. And thank you so much for the work that you do and your bravery and your eloquence in speaking about it, Dr. Robinson.


I want to sit down every legislator from Texas who voted in favor of the latest abortion restrictions and make them read this interview, watch this documentary.


@geometree Hell yeah! I highly recommend that people go see this documentary if it's showing near them - it is really, really, really fascinating and good and humanizing.


Dr. Robinson - I'm in awe of your bravery and complete compassion. You are an amazing woman.

Jia - You nailed it, lady.


Oh, the choice the mother of an anomalous fetus faces: to let the baby be born into a world of surgeries and tests and a likely hospital death or terminate its life inside her body.


@laurel I think it was in the NY Times, and I believe the Hairpin linked to it at one point, but there was a piece by a woman who chose with her husband to have a late-term abortion due to fetal abnormality - and part of their reasoning to do that, rather than give birth, was that they wanted their child to die in a place that was warm and familiar and full of love. And I'm crying a little bit now, because I can't imagine finding a single moment of grace in the midst of such a horrendous decision, but I think that's maybe it.


@MoxyCrimeFighter Exactly. Thanks for getting my inarticulate overwhelmedness and for saying so.


@laurel @MoxyCrimeFighter The article you're referring to might be this one, published in the Boston Globe a while back. I've had it bookmarked for years. Don't read in public if you don't enjoy crying in public.

Elleander Morning

@meowmischen I can't even read the description above without crying.


@MoxyCrimeFighter I'm Just Curious If You Can Explain To Me Why A Fetus Would Care If It Killed In A Place That Is Warm And Familiar? I Mean, If A Fetus Doesn't Have Any Ability To Feel, Or Any Self Awareness, As Many In The Pro Choice Camp Claim, Then What Difference Does It Really Make?


@laurel Most research I've seen on the topic suggests that the connections required within a body to be able to experience pain aren't established until 24 weeks of gestation. For some late-term abortions, this means that some fetuses would indeed feel pain. However, it's indicated in this article that the fetus is euthanized in a way that avoids pain.

Still, you can take pain out of the question, whether the fetus is able to feel it or not. The argument here is that they would like their baby, who they cared for, to go through as little pain and suffering as possible. Death is something to be treated with care and respect. Say you had a loved one who was in a terrible accident and left brain-dead. Sure, they may not experience suffering anymore. They may not feel pain. But that doesn't mean I'd rather my loved one's body be taken out of their warm bed away from the comforts they can't even enjoy anymore when that body ceases to breathe, to pump blood.

The difference it makes is humanity, respect and love.


@rushbabe Also obviously my comment above was not directed @laurel.


Thank you both so much for this incredible interview. Dr. Robinson, thank you for doing what you do.


This is incredibly powerful. Thank you both.


Holy SMOKES, Jia. Thank you so, so much.


I was also very much against 3rd-trimester abortions. Thank you for posting this article! It has given me a lot to think about.

I had a stillbirth at 23 weeks, and they did that thing where they let me hold him and encouraged me to take pictures afterwards. I thought it was really weird & morbid at the time ("Take pictures of my dead baby? What?") but it ended up being extremely cathartic. I was actually in the hospital for about 4 days afterwards, and they kept him in a crib next to my bed for that whole time. Again, really weird but cathartic. Except when an orderly came in and said "Congratulations!" and I had to say "He's dead."

I also had to make a decision, when I was in labor with him (for 2 days). They could try to slow down the labor as much as they could (with medication) and I could stay in the hospital for another week or two and try to give birth to him... in which case, if he lived, he would have been born with severe disabilities. Or have them take me off the labor-slowing medication, I would give birth to him, and he would be a stillbirth. I chose the latter, and although it still makes me sad (happened 8 years ago), it was very much the right decision.

So while it wasn't technically an abortion (although I did have to have a D&C afterwards), I can see how it was somewhat similar to some of the scenarios above.


@Gilgongo I am so sorry for your loss, but I am thankful that you had compassionate caregivers, and you were able to take the time to grieve for your baby.


Wow. Her bravery and empathy are just incredible. The phrase that keeps coming to mind for me is that she's doing God's work.

Now excuse me while my pregnant-lady hormones cause me to deteriorate into a pile of snot and tears.


@unfortumissy Same reaction here. We are going to have our unborn baby tested for chromosomal abnormalities on Monday, and although it's unlikely there's anything wrong, I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy that you had so much hope for.

Thank you Dr. Robinson for being a compassionate caregiver for the women who have to make that tough choice.


I think this is best thing I read today. Thank you.


@nina! it's the best thing I've read in a while.

I've been pro-choice since I was old enough to really understand what that meant, but reading this made me realize (& confront) the extent to which my opinions about late-term abortion had been shaped by anti-choice rhetoric. on some level--even though it seems ridiculous now, obviously--I think I did have that idea of the lazy, procrastinatory pregnant lady who's suddenly like "oh, RIGHT, that" at 30-something weeks (...or something equally unflattering).

I should've known better; I used to volunteer at Planned Parenthood & am well aware that no abortion provider will proceed without thoughtfully evaluating the patient's history & situation. why should an even more dangerous & complicated procedure be any different?

I feel like third-trimester abortion has been positioned (in public/political discourse) as this way of downplaying the intensity of your pro-choice views, & I worry that that opens up a foothold to shut down other forms of reproductive freedom--"well I believe abortion should be be legal but not those BAD abortions." but to me, this interview proves that you can't really draw that line--I mean, the example about the woman in Afghanistan? the solution there is, "sorry, you were too busy serving your country & now you have to give up your military career to have a baby you never wanted?" to say nothing of instances of incest/sexual assault.

it's always going to be a fraught & complicated issue, because anytime an abortion takes place it's in the wake of a potentially fraught & complicated situation. but I'm gonna keep this knowledge with me, & the next time the subject comes up, I'm going to try to explain why I feel like "except late-term abortions" isn't really a viable position if you're staunchly pro-choice.

(...I'll be a real hit at parties, I'd imagine. also, this isn't to pick a fight anyone who still feels uneasy about it conceptually even after reading this piece--just me trying to narrate the ways in which it enlightened me & changed my mind.)


Amazing stuff, Jia. What a courageous, tenacious, and empathetic woman. Only wish there were more like Dr. Robinson.


@katiemcgillicuddy My thoughts exactly. I am overwhelmed by the amount of compassion that she is able to bring to work every day.

a Widebrant

That second-to-last answer is just a bowling ball to the chest.


Dr. Robinson is my hero. Thanks for an interview that allows us to engage, out in the open, about the real complexities of human birth and the realities of medicine for women in this country. These are all the things that generally get cut out of any articles that discuss women's reproductive health care, especially in matters of abortion.


Thank you so much, Dr. Robinson.


Thank you. This is maybe the first time in my entire life I've been brought to tears reading an interview. Thank you so much for your work.


I am speechless over how much this has given me to think about.


I saw the documentary about Dr. Robinson and her colleagues, and it's incredibly insightful and compassionate. Definitely worth seeing. There's a link to the trailer at the beginning of the interview.


Dr. Robinson, you are stunning, you are a hero. Thanks, Jia, for doing this interview. I'll definitely be referring people to it.


Amazing interview. Thank you, Dr. Robinson.


This is tremendous! Wonderful interview, as always, Jia. And thank you, THANK YOU Dr. Robinson for doing what you do.


A beautiful interview. Thank you. I'm crying now. Dr. Robinson, you are amazing.


Speaking about this: "For example, in the movie, I had a patient from France and she just desperately did not want to be pregnant—but she was 35 weeks, and gestational age is plus or minus three weeks, so she could've been at 38 weeks, and that’s just too far along. It wouldn’t be safe."
Where is the big problem with early C-section? Yes, I know that it's better to be born full-term than pre-term, but in cases of unwanted pregnancy, there are other things to consider, from extreme like suicide attempt to less extreme like using illegally obtained mifepristone (will not induce complete abortion, but can kill the fetus) or even "details" like stress hormones or unhealthy lifestyle or drug abuse (just take some sleeping pills, so I don't have to think about being pregnant)... There are just SO MANY THINGS!

Plus I think that some women might be persuaded by shorter pregnancy to choose adoption instead of abortion, so I'm surprised prolife folks are not advocating for that.

But it's just pretty extreme that someone who "wants to stop being pregnant" at week 35 needs to seek abortion.

simone eastbro

@rosa maybe it's possible that in a short interview for THE HAIRPIN this doctor did not offer all of the salient details about an individual's medical decisions? like maybe the "big problem with early C-section" for this patient was a mitigating circumstance that we aren't entitled to know?

Kathleen Fred Linton-Ford@facebook

@rosa Pro-Life people always advocate strongly for adoption.


@rosa It's not clear who or what she means by "safe": safe for the woman? Safe for the clinic's facilities? Safe for the running of her clinic and her reputation? It could be any and all of those things.
(from what she says elsewhere, a c-section would be beyond her clinic's facilities, and in terms of purely medical stats, less safe for the woman than an induced labour).


Does anyone have info on how to donate to her clinic? I tried researching, but most of the results were anti-choice wackos and I'd rather not peruse those pages.

Lord of Misrule

This was an amazing interview. Thanks, Jia, and thank you, Dr. Robinson, for what you do.


Thank you for running this interview.


Holy SHIT Jia. This is incredible. She is just so strong, and so brave. I'm so, so glad she is continuing to do what she does.


Wow. Just, wow. This is really good.

Masha Bean@facebook

Sick and wrong. You can spin it however you want, but murder is murder and that's all. If it is God's will that a woman will die in childbirth, well then that is His plan for her. If it is God's will that a baby will be born with half brain, or downs syndrome and a heart defect then again it is HIS will. He is also merciful and will work miracles if we let Him. If we allow God's will be done, no matter how difficult it might be, how life threatening it might be to you, He will reward you, if not in this life, then in the next. But there is no reward for murder. Even if you go on living, knowing that you had killed your child, what kind of life can you have after that?

Allie Williams@facebook

Thank you, Masha, for being brave enough to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Babies in the womb are human beings, and this lady is in the business of killing human beings. That is wrong, no matter how much she spins it, and it doesn't change the one unassailable fact: abortion is not healthcare and it violates the Hippocratic Oath. I hope this doctor has a change of heart and contacts And Then There Were None at http://www.attwn.org/ Dr. Robinson, if you are reading this, it's not too late to change your mind!! Please, from one woman to another, open your heart to the children whose lives do not have to end this way!


@Masha Bean@facebook a novel perspective


@Masha Bean@facebook sadistic misogyny as religion. Lovely! At least someone's willing to say out loud what we know all anti-choice fucks are really thinking: women are not human. Women are incubators, nothing more, and deserve to die if they even think about creating a life for themselves outside of childbearing.


@Masha Bean@facebook: Oh, hi, Masha, I thought I'd introduce you to someone you may have met - he said some really cool things!
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

... But, by the way you talk, I'm not sure you've met this Jesus. It's very, very easy to judge, and much harder to show true compassion - that's the difference between the Pharisees and Jesus.

You might try reading Matthew 23, as well; I'm sure you have a Bible handy somewhere in your house.


@Masha Bean@facebook You get that not everyone believes in God, and that many people that do believe in God have entirely different perspectives on his or her views than you, right?

Allie Williams@facebook

@lovelettersinhell , I don't totally agree with Masha on everything but I do support her making a case for the pro-life viewpoint. However, as a 100% pro-life agnostic (born and raised) I reject the assertion that this is a religious versus secular issue. Science is clear: the offspring of human beings are... human.


@Masha Bean@facebook @Allie Williams@Facebook I hope that some day you obviously very faithful and caring people can find it in your hearts to understand that for many women and their families, this IS the miracle of compassion, this IS God's grace, this IS the most loving choice that can be made to save their beloved baby from suffering. It's painful to discover that the world is not as black-and-white as you think it is, but it can also give you a much deeper, more profound understanding of the idea that God works in mysterious ways.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Lulu22 , I hope the same for you, that you can have a change of heart. I really do feel for the families that choose to abort due to major fetal anomalies. You raise a good point. However, the Dr. touches on (and dismisses) the disabled rights issue; it gets scary when you take it upon yourself, as she does, to draw that line. As for the "maternal indications" patients, that is inexcusable murder, end of story, there is no compassion there at all.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Allie Williams@facebook Yes, a complete lack of compassion. After all, what right does a mere woman have to decide what does or does not inhabit her body? Just because she is a fully grown, living human doesn't mean she gets precedence over the potential human inside her. If she feels it is a parasite, or a constant reminder of a traumatic event, then that's her problem. If she wants it removed, she should learn to bury those feelings like a proper incubator and carry that precious child to term! I'm sure there are loving families just waiting for each unwanted child to be born so they can be adopted and lead happy, healthy lives! That's why there's no more foster care or group homes or orphanages, right?

Physician, heal thyself. Have compassion for the women in these incredibly difficult situations before you accuse them of lacking compassion.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Veronica Mars, I am actually accusing Dr. Robinson of not being compassionate. I hope I am wrong - I hope she finds compassion in her heart and realizes she has gone the wrong way in her efforts to do good, and stops what she is doing. The pro-life position is the compassionate one as it recognizes the inherent human worth of both woman and child. And a pre-born child is not a "potential human," he or she is a human being. What other species could he or she possibly be? Human rights are for everyone.


@Allie Williams@facebook
"What do you hope people come away with after seeing the film, or reading this?"

"I really hope that they'll understand that these late abortion decisions are carefully made by these women. They have been thought out, wrestled with, agonized over. They are never casual. And the need for late-term abortions will never go away."


@Masha Bean@facebook It's good that you're so confident about what God wants. That's not arrogant at all. Maybe God (if there is one) is totally cool with abortion because he/she takes a larger view of life than what your tiny brain can comprehend.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Lu2 , I never disputed that they are hard decisions. Only wrong ones. And yes, abortion will go away and future historians will be horrified that we engaged in the practice.


@Masha Bean@facebook And I'm saying that it's not your place to say what's a "wrong" decision for someone else. Do you think that abortion started in the 20th century? It's always happened, and it hasn't always been demonized. I'm not going to get derailed into the history of it with you, but when Dr. Robinson says that the need will never go away, she knows what she's talking about.

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

@Masha Bean@facebook your argument is flawed. There is no divitiy or "god". We create our own moral belief system.


@Masha Bean@facebook - I agree that it IS spin. As someone who was agnostic most of my life but is now more spiritual after many life experiences, I do have to say that this is NOT about those who believe in God or not. This is not an issue of religion or about "reproductive freedom" or any other rhetoric. This is NOT about "compassion" on either side. It is about RIGHT vs. WRONG. I am not anti-choice nor am I pro-abortion. I know that there are times when things are not so clear cut. But many late term abortions are not about babies who may have horrible illnesses or may face life with significant disabilities. We should not be deciding these things. Life was not meant for us to kill unless it is for survival. And it is ridiculous for a doctor to say that giving birth is riskier than having a late term abortion. Which is more natural? Be serious. Yes, there are risks in giving birth. That is a part of life. So are horrible diseases and defects. But many people have triumphed in the face of adversity--many great people who created or contributed significantly to mankind were many of the same people who now would be considered candidates for late-term abortion. It is sad that people in this day and age believe in eugenics as Margaret Sanger (the one who started Planned Parenthood) did. Sanger was a "progressive" and their belief is that those who are "inferior" in some way should be sterilized or eliminated. These people think like animal breeders who are looking to create the next show dog. It is the same kind of thinking that Hitler had. Think about it.


@Masha Bean@facebook Your God is not real. I don't believe in it, and reject it utterly. How dare you try to force your beliefs on other people?

Beth Lott@facebook

@kinbarichan The verse to which you're referring DOES NOT mean "turn off your moral and ethical judgement and never say anything is wrong." It means "Don't think of yourself as sinless or others as unsavable."

Well, I'm not sinless. God can, and does, save abortionists. And NONE OF THAT makes abortion any less horrible, wrong, and utterly unjustifiable.

Stephanie Boland@twitter

Thank you for your work.


Such an incredible interview, thank you Jia and thank you Dr. Robinson.

Kathleen Fred Linton-Ford@facebook

As a 'doctor' this woman knows the infants she is aborting are pain-capable (the science of fetal pain is very well-established) and that the immediate and long-term effects of abortion make it more dangerous than giving birth. Check out Secular Pro-Life (although obviously it is easier for people like this to say that abortion-supporters are sane and logical, and those who do not support the dismemberment of pain-capable children are hysterical Christian fundamentalists) http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/doctors-slam-abortion-safer-than-childbirth-study/


@Kathleen Fred Linton-Ford@facebook You're actually incorrect. Fetal pain science is not well-established, and its coming out that much of the science arguing for fetal pain is fraudulent. You may have also found a site willing to put up some doctors who are willing to lie, but the fact that abortion is statistically safer than pregnancy is well-known. Is there a reason you put doctor in little quotes? She's a medical doctor with a medical degree. You don't get much more doctor than that.


@lovelettersinhell Well, I suppose she could get a PhD on top of the MD - some people do that.

Those people are total masochists.

(Also, you got to correcting her "facts" before I could, but yes, exactly.)


@Kathleen Fred Linton-Ford@facebook Did you not read the part where the fetus is euthanized via painless injection before any other procedure is performed on it?


@Kathleen Fred Linton-Ford@facebook Here is a NYT article talking about the ambiguity of the science of fetal pain. And the statistics on maternal mortality, and other complications with permanent effects, are easily found. Childbirth is considerably more dangerous than a properly-performed abortion (particularly before 20-24 weeks, which is when most abortions are performed). They rank among the safest outpatient surgical procedures, and serious complications are very rare.

Paula Glennon@facebook

@squishycat Susan Robinson performs late term abortions at Southwestern Womens Options in Albuquerque, NM. One of only four centers who do them in the U.S. It is owned by Curtis Boyd. Their own consent form states that abortions after 18 weeks gestation are actually more dangerous than carrying a pregnancy to term. You can view their consent form here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qd4ipa6812u8c46/SWO%20Consent%20Form.pdf


And I'm crying in public. Thank you for your work, Dr. Robinson, and thank you Jia for this interview.


Ohh, now I'm crying, just a little, totally-non-embarrassing amount. Thank you, Dr. Robinson, for your work, and Jia, for doing this interview.

Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook

I have seen late term abortions done via video. Small lifeless limbs being pulled out of a vagina and crushed skulls. I find it disturbing that other women find that doing this to their children is empowering, and that we call women who do this procedure a hero.


@Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook I think it is really interesting that you describe "lifeless limbs" and "vaginas" - it distances the real person from the situation, doesn't it, including the mother? That vagina is attached to someone with a soul, who isn't making their decision lightly.

(Not trying to pick a fight! I was caught by your word choice.)


@Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook I find videos of open-heart surgery disturbing, too. They're just as essential, though.

Mannix Camacho@facebook

@Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook
Yes, well said!

Mannix Camacho@facebook

@Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook
PatatasBravas: Indeed something horrible as that can hardly be justified. Same with the act of the person who had gunned down the school children, could hardly be justified though how great that person's derangement might be. Exceptionally though, those who pleads temporary insanity are sometimes pardoned!

Allie Williams@facebook

@PatatasBravas , I am confident that Ruth, just like most if not all pro-lifers, do not seek to deny women's humanity. Heck, we are women! And male pro-lifers are husbands, fathers of daughters, brothers of sisters, etc. Pro life does not mean anti women. In fact, we feel that women deserve better than abortion.


@Ruth Ann Swanson@facebook We certainly deserve better than you.


@Allie Williams@facebook It's certainly fine to not want an abortion for yourself and to wish other women didn't have to make that choice. However, to say that anti-choice isn't anti-woman is a lie. You are advocating for a woman to give birth to a child she doesn't want, against her will. You don't know any of these women but you're willing to judge them. You lack empathy for someone whose life is totally different than yours. That is anti-woman. You and all these other Facebook trolls need to own what you are.

Allie Williams@facebook

@hands_down I am actually judging the doctor, you inferred that I am judging the women and ok, maybe I am a bit even though I shouldn't, because I am human. But I am definitely not anti woman simply because I believe women should behave ethically. That is like saying I am anti driver because I believe motorists should obey the rules of the road. (A simple example, but apt.)

Kehyja Tanaka@facebook

@Allie Williams@facebook
Sorry, but your example sucks. Motorists should obey the rules of the road because it involves the safety of other sentient, separate, aware beings. By disobeying them, they put others at risk.
A woman making choices concerning her body has nothing to do with you. It is not putting you or anyone else in danger of being injured; it is her choice entirely and /your/ morals and religion have no say in it.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Kehyja Tanaka@facebook It's a simplistic example, true, but accurate. The child is not part of the mother's body; he or she is a separate person with a separate heart, brain, nervous system, DNA, etc. etc.


as a mother, a woman who's miscarried, carried to term, and is trying again, thank you for what you do, thank you for your compassion and your courage, and I pray for your safety as much as any Unitarian can pray.

And Jia, thank you for the interview.

Mannix Camacho@facebook

Dr. Susan Robinson, you had described the ProLife figure as the murderers of your kind and that providing abortion service is amoral on your part. You think that you are just an impersonal instrument for those who have decided to end the life of their own baby. You would refer to a conceived living human being as either a healthy fetus or a defective fetus. May I remind you that some in that same shell had already repented, a number also had been jailed! You need compassion but I know you would not care because you believe that you are just being misunderstood. I am sorry to say that what you know and believed in are not beyond comprehension. One should always ask themselves not only if what one does passes the legal minds of today, but also if the same could past the Last Judge!


@Mannix Camacho@facebook Hey guess what? I don't believe in your God! I don't believe in Hell, either. So I don't see why I should have to live by your god's bullshit rules. You nosey godbags have NO RIGHT pushing your religion on the rest of the country. If it bothers you, pray over it, but stay the fuck out of my life and my body.


@Jinxie What you fail to understand is that it isn't just your body involved. The baby's body is also involved. And half the time, the baby is a female. Pretty ironic that the unborn female is denied the right to choose what she does with HERR body! You don't believe in God or hell? You will one day!


@Jinxie that dog gif is the best gif i've ever seen


@j-i-a @Jinxie yes. I need to use that for so many conversations.


@j-i-a I've been waiting for a chance to use it for AGES. (Though I'm bummed that I had to use it on THIS article. I recognize that it's lowering the discourse somewhat but these people make me so, so angry that I've transcended rage and come back around to laughter, because that is the only way I can cope.)

Allie Williams@facebook

@Jinxie , I ask you, respectfully and in all seriousness, why are you so angry at those who simply represent an opposing viewpoint? I would honestly love to hear a bit more about how you feel and why opposing opinions anger you. Oh, and even though I am on the "other side" I do like the House one, I was always a fan of House :-)


@Allie Williams@facebook If it were simply a matter of opposing viewpoints, I wouldn't react so strongly or angrily. BUT many from your side of the debate aren't content with simply voicing a dissenting opinion - they are actively working to eliminate my ability to chose an abortion when I need or want one. And there are some who take their "dissent" even further - by protesting outside of clinics, making patients and staff uncomfortable at best, and scared for their lives at worst. And there are others, too, who have gone beyond simple threats and provocation, who have engaged in actual violent acts against the medical staff who provide this VERY necessary service. Do you think threats of violence are respectful? Do you think it's respectful to bomb a health clinic? Do you think it's respectful to MURDER A DOCTOR IN HIS CHURCH? I do wonder how you feel about that because I sure as hell don't think it's respectful. I think my anger is justified, and I don't see why I should be polite to people who have, in essence, declared war on my side of the table.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Jinxie I, like every pro-lifer I know, condemn violence. The pro-life movement universally condemns violence against abortion providers. Every movement has its outliers - we do not affiliate with them. Rest assured, violent people are not part of the mainstream pro life movement. The vast majority, myself included, would never dream of hurting another person. That said, yes we oppose your so-called right to commit violence against a child. We do not believe that committing violence against a child should be a legal option. Please understand that this debate does not need to be a war. Really, it's all about peace.


@Allie Williams@facebook Ok, fine. I'm done. Fuck you, fuck your movement. I have no wish to "debate" you assholes anymore.

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

@Allie Williams@facebook you say you condemn violence but you probably eat the flesh of dead animals who were very violently killed for YOUR five minutes of palate pleasure. Prolife indeed. LOSER.

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

@Mannix Camacho@facebook God is not facutal. Hell is made up by religions who try to control total populations.

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

@Mato1970 NO, we won't. We'll be femrmenting in our graves turning into new vegetable material.


@Ettore Bellardini@facebook I like you.


@Jinxie @Ettore Bellardini@facebook Anch'io.


Fantastic interview. I saw After Tiller this summer and can't recommend it highly enough.


To all you god botherers coming here from Facebook to preach your lies at us, I got only on thing to say:

Mannix Camacho@facebook

You have the freedom to tell that to your conscience and to develop that strong infuriating attitude towards a being that attempts to find you. This life is our runway towards the ultimate life and social order! Those who had sought had found, those who had asked had received. Our gift of space is nothing less for that alone. Thank you even for the minute window you had opened. :)


@Mannix Camacho@facebook Says you.

Kehyja Tanaka@facebook

@Mannix Camacho@facebook
I know you posted here two days ago, but I have a sincere question for you.
Suppose you--with valiant effort--fought for the rights of an unborn fetus and you succeeded in saving its life. And suppose that same child grew up to be healthy, normal, and a flaming homosexual. Would you still fight to protect that child's rights?


Jia, you are amazing. Don't really have words except that this interview, this dialogue, is so important.

saul "the bear" berenson

"When parents are saying, 'We do not feel we can adequately cope with that issue,' I believe them."

This is so perfect and eloquent.


Dr. Susan Robinson, you are a wonderful professional and a lovely person. Thanks for your courage and your commitment.

Rebecca Sluman@facebook

It disgusts me hearing all the people calling her courageous, empathetic, compassionate, etc. No, those are the virtues held by the women who are merciful enough to love and accept their children, even with flaws. Those are the women who know that their child may not live for long after birth, but decide to let them pass away with dignity. Allowing them to be born, lovingly cradling them in their arms as their heart beats for the last time. These are the virtues possessed by the parents who realize that having a disability doesn't make them less of a person, and who acknowledges that while they may not have the financial means or emotional capacity to take care of a child with special needs, there is another couple out there who will adopt or foster their child, and take advantage of the several organizations set up to facilitate the adoption of handicapped children.

The reasoning she gives on why it's OK to abort late term babies is ridiculous. Because a baby *may* have a disability? Because the mother may be 12? Since when does the age of a mother or a possibility that you were born with an extra chromosome determine the worth of a human being? A woman may not know she's pregnant. So ignorance is a reason to be able to kill the unborn child living inside of you?

I kept waiting for Dr Robinson to describe the patient who's life is in grave danger unless she aborts her baby. You know, the number one reason we hear about why it's perfectly acceptable to kill? Oh, that's right. Because a woman undergoing a late term abortion still has to go through every stage of labor and delivery a woman with a live baby inside of her goes through. She still has to have her cervix dilated. She still has to suffer through uterine contractions, and she still has to push that dead baby through her birth canal. She admits that this process can take up to four days! The fact is, a late term abortion is NEVER necessary for the safety of the mother, because an emergency c-section is faster, and more easily controlled, thus SAFER than a late term abortion.

But yeah, pro-baby killers will continue to allow themselves to be brainwashed into thinking that this barbaric practice is somehow 'humane,' somehow 'just'. They will continue to deny science. Basic biology teaches you that life begins at conception. Everything that determines who you are as a person, is present at conception. Your sex, your race, hair color, eye color, your DNA, your ENTIRE genetic makeup is present at conception. There is nothing left to add to make you into a human being. Claiming that it's not *really* a human, it's not perfect, or it's not really a life because it's not full developed, is like saying an infant is somehow less of a person than an adolescent, who is less of a person than an adult. Nice try!

Allie Williams@facebook

@Rebecca Sluman@facebook Great post Rebecca, thank you!


@Rebecca Sluman@facebook Hey - you can just fuck right the hell off. Seriously. Fuck you.


@Allie Williams@facebook You too.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Jinxie thanks, hugs and kisses, have a nice day, it's been a slice :-)

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

@Rebecca Sluman@facebook because you have been in this situation, right?


Some of these pro-forced-birthers lower the IQ of the whole street when they speak. And we're supposed to take our time to refute their specious arguments, which have been countered over and over most effectively in many forums, in many places, across time, yet it never convinces them. Nuh-uh. I have better things to do. The information is out there. You can continue to argue based on feelings about "babies" and your need to legislate your personal morality, or you can listen to people with compassion and respect and realize that they know what they're talking about as much as you do. But I'm done responding here.


What is the current Hairpin moderation policy, if any? In general I appreciate a light hand and I enjoy the freedom to be disagreeable that this lightness affords us, but I think some of the filth here could stand to be cleaned up. I know there is sometimes thought to be value in letting people reveal themselves fully so that everyone knows the extent and quality of the opposition, but I think in this case everybody with an interest already does know.


@queenofbithynia I think we gotta do it ourselfs unless it gets really overboard.

This is a very unusual kind of discussion on the hairpin, because there's obvs some outsidahs doing their thingy, crusading and whatnot.

But... there's also some genuine difference of opinion, on a subject that seems almost like "THE" line drawn in the sand about issues like self-determination as a female citizen of humanity. I think where a LOT of us are -historically- coming from is that this issue traces back to **any** reproductive rights.

The "birth control" argument was an historical genesis of this issue... that too was interfering "unnaturally" with "Life capital-L" and children (little c). That if you had the sex-y without the kids it was "going against nature" god's will etc.

So it actually started out there. Women were not supposed to prevent pregnancy. Lady, if you have sex you better be ready to have a baby... not just one, mama, unh-uh we're talkin' "As Many As You Are Physically Able". Because contraception is evil/wrong/unnatural/goes against god/goes against biology... who are you to stop the process of procreation?

And that kind of mentality is SO foreign to the modern woman (and man) today. We'd just be like... "what, no pleasure sex? but that's some of the best stuff of life! for recreation and for love and for general feel-goodness and glad to be aliveness!" Yes, we're all going to die... and our loved ones will too. And our bodies will get old and likely sickly! But at least there's all that groovalicious sex (and, hopesfully, the awesomest-combo sex-and-love!)

So back to having babies once the seed is fertilized... now that the horse is out of the barn, moralistically speaking, and we're down with doing the get-down without ALWAYS the potential INEVITABLY having the consequences of a whole 'nother mega-ass human life to contend with each time we do the deed.

How do we feel about keeping that seed from coming into being? Now that we've agreed that we CAN (morally, decently) have sex without creating people coming into being...

See this is all really about existence, ultimately.

Ours, and our little ones (who grows up! to be other big ones!)

And, obviously my position is that there is a deeply insidious dark and ugly thing that is at the root of "pro forced procreation" which I don't think can be addressed directly because it's dishonest at it's root. It's masquerading as something that it's not: reverence for life. It's like that dude who tells you he wants you to dress modestly "because he respect you" nope: "he represses you (and himself) and honey that ain't respect."

But at the outer circles of the "pro life" movement (not it's dark ugly core of savage religious control) I think there are a lot of good hearted folks who are all... think of the children!

And, I just really wish they WOULD think of the children. Because, honey, my loves, we have so many children... and they deserve the best that we can give them. Even the grown up children. We do not need to be this savage, and we are NOT redeemed thru or by or even despite our savagery. I think of the children and I am crushed under the weight of all of the lost souls and the wretched in our (very undeveloped) society.

They's those that's lucky, but they's plenty that's not. Dude I just got a random mover who seemed like the nicest guy and it turns out he's from the underclass for whom human exploitation is a way of life that he's just barely escaped but not after getting in deep with it. There are very very very ugly sides of life... both at the very top, and at the very bottom not to mention that we are not exactly on our game about sustainability.

I think people who DO care about humanity, who DO cherish it, are thinking of the children and are very much onboard with planned parenting vs. forced procreation because very are aware of the consequences of parenthood and bringing new people into this world.

The people who are SO deeply averse to PREVENTING ANY POSSIBLE life don't really seem to notice or care about the quality of that life, they're so enamored of the potential. But unrealized potential can be really unrecognizably dark and ugly. And it seems to me that the prolife people are just willfully blind to that. Not because they're shielded in a bubble from it, but because they are hypocrites who just don't GAF.

When I break it down, the pro choice people mostly DO GAF
and the pro life people largely don't and devote so much emotional energy into bringing people here only to forsake them once they get here.

I'm happy to have this conversation once there isn't tremendous needless suffering in our society. Once the underclass (and yes, the overclass too) aren't wracked with a deeply entrenched disregard for human life, and our mental healthcare institutions aren't overburdened and woefully underfunded. There are kids who suffer desperate deprivations and while some make it thru intact there are many many more who do not who grow up to be angry mean human beings.

Given that this whole conversation started around whether or not it's okay to even have birth CONTROL, let alone abortion (which was a later extension of the argument, whether I have to carry a baby to term in my body, especially when it is a small cluster of cells easily removed, much more safely than giving birth)... welp, it's obvs that pro-lifers are on the wrong side of history (and lets hope they didn't manage to derail history) because back in the day they'd be the ones arguing against contraception.

I really want to respect those genuine peeps who are reverently prolife in some kind of deeply spiritual way, and I will once they all demonstrate that to me by taking care of this here life that we got going on right now. Then we can talk. And I'll totally come to the table, still with my point of view but much more ready to take yours seriously.

Allie Williams@facebook

@HairpinRules, Thank you, at least, for acknowledging that some of mean well. It means the world to me, honestly. We are definitely on different sides of the debate but I thank you you for recognizing that some (I would argue most, but let's not stretch it) actually are coming at this from a positive, pro-child point of view.


@queenofbithynia It's hard on this one; I really appreciate the care some of you guys (both sides) are taking to engage with people, here, as much as I have zero appreciation for people who have popped in with nasty hard-line judgment. But I'm not sure if we could cut any of the comments off. I've stayed out of this thread because I feel really, really deeply for Susan Robinson and believe that what she doing is a public service of the highest order - one that is compatible with ethics and morality and religion - and have a hard time emotionally dealing with people who are judging her; everyone else feel free to stay away too, but again, I'm appreciative of y'all who are engaging.


@HairpinRules It's too bad that this response is now hidden by the mists of time, because it's excellent. Thank you for making an eloquent plea against "Life! Potential life! At all costs, while we pretend that it'll all work out somehow because we wish for an ideal world and hope that's enough."

It's still hard for me to believe that these overly defensive anti-choicers who have their nose out of joint about our tone or our language haven't heard all this before. Just how often, and how nicely, do we have to couch everything in "we don't think you're just being mean" before they will even entertain the idea that we [too?] believe we have people's best interests at heart?

Allie Williams@facebook

@Lu2 @j-i-a Your replies have helped me understand your side a little better, thank you. j-i-a, may I (respectfully) borrow and tweak your phrasing to illustrate why we pro-lifers feel as passionate as you do? "I feel really, really deeply for Susan Robinson and believe that, while she means well, she is committing a human rights violation of the highest order - one that is incompatible with ethics and morality and religion - and have a hard time emotionally dealing with people who are praising her." We feel just as strongly as you do, just in a totally opposite way, so no wonder the discussions get as messy as the politics! That said, it is genuine belief driving us (in my case, it's a human rights issue, not a religious one, but different things motivate different people). It is not a case of being "mean."


@Allie Williams@facebook But the thing is, when two peoples' ethical systems conflict, whose takes precedence? Going your way legislates away an option someone else thinks is perfectly moral and ethical, so why should you get to ruin--as is sometimes the case--someone else's life by making it so that she has to bear a child she doesn't want and can't raise? Going our way allows everyone to do what they feel they need to do. This is not a situation like making a crime illegal. Half the people don't think abortion is wrong, and some of those who do still have them themselves when faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

I know the statement, "Don't like abortions? Don't have one!" seems rude, but it really is true. Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-[mandatory-]abortion. It means being in favor of allowing people to have abortions. It's something you don't like or approve of, I know, but it's the only way to be respectful of other peoples' personal morality. You will never be able to remove or fix all the reasons why a woman might not want to carry a pregnancy to term, and taking away her legal right to have an abortion is only going to make her have an illegal one.

Abortion is an ancient practice. Even within Christianity, it was centuries and centuries before the idea that "life begins at conception" came along. A fetus wasn't human until quickening. So you can see that this modern wholesale anti-abortion/anti-choice idea is just another human doctrine, not a mandate from God. And to those of us who may be agnostic or atheistic, the invocation of shaping society and its practices according to what certain groups of humans think God/Jesus wants is just completely unwanted and irrelevant.


@Allie Williams@facebook

Ok, sooooooooooo.......... if I am a person who cares about people, let's say. And I feel like a practice is barbaric (let's say virgin sacrifice or some kind of logans run thing or something).

I'm like "whoah! hold up! People, we can't be slicing off someone's hand for stealing! Especially if people are impoverished and can't survive and are stealing just to eat! This is not the way to go!" Or, "wait up! we can't have slavery where we treat others in an inhumane way with no care for their lives! This damages all of our humanity and makes us unhealthy emotionally!"

Then... let's take those analogies. And do a little unpacking.

I get it. Conceptually, I get it. (sorry for the unintended pun.) But here's what I don't get....

Why are all these deaths more "cause-worthy" than the deaths of children every day in this world? Why are they more significant and worthy of your passion?

Forget about quality of life and the question of whether or not some lives are worth living (for example... someone who is wreaking havoc and destruction, who is destroying lives and causing unfathomable pain -- is that person's life to be valued in equal measure as that of those who have suffered? Or would you be willing to end that person's life in order to spare innocent immeasurable suffering? Maybe we'd be okay without that person's life? I'm not pro-death penalty and I do believe in redemption, but I definitely would have supported an assassination of hitler for example without even the teeniest bit of moral qualm).

So let's not even look into the child suffering that goes on in this world, which can be grievous, nearly insurmountable and practically speaking is usually neglected and left to wither and die. These things happen, and there are people who dedicate themselves to helping all they can, but the need is far far greater than the care. Those people are living saints.

Now let's turn our attention to the would-be side-of-the-angels those who care so deeply for those poor poor unborn souls who never had a chance. Who care that children "get to live their lives!" (godamnit! I mean, god bless those poor souls! let's save them!)

And yet... show them the kids who are born. Who suffer and then die. In infancy. As toddlers. We're not even talking quality of life and whether they have a life that is not a misery-filled shit storm (say, of being forced to be a child soldier). These lil ones are straight-up dying. Dead. Boom. No lifey-life there. Died, coulda been saved to "live life!" were totally, passionately wanted and loved by their parents. Cut down and deprived of life.

Never got a chance to live. Born? Yes. After that...? Not so much.

In order of priority... who comes first? If we're talking triage situation... who's need is most urgent? Who do we care about? Who do we care for?

And... kind of more to the point: are there some human innocent children that we really just do not feel the kind of passionate urgency to provide life to? Who we're like, "erp, dead, there goes another one. Too bad, so sad. But meanwhile, what about that life growing in your belly???!? Let's save that one STAT!!!!! C'mon people, let's get on it.

I wonder what those other little baby souls are like...? Do they go, "um, excuse me, over here...? my parents both desperately wanted me to live... to have all of this wondrous bounty of life, but, uh, a little help would have been nice, because now my dead lifeless body is being buried.... and I never had a chance"


Because when you are all like "smoking is bad!" (but I like me some meth) than I don't think you can classify yourself as a heath nut. And when you are all "I care SO PASSIONATELY about Human Life and then you can't get a woody for saving the life of some kid you never met whose whole life has consisted of misery, starvation, sickness and death, but you've got a hard on life a frickin rod of steel (OMG it's throbbing! Bursting out, just in-your-face can't hide it baby!) for my unborn baby... Well.. you start to look a little fetish-y to me.

A little hypocritical and insincere.

Serious question: what is up with this? How about you go save those babies, and then get back to me? Because if you DID save those kids they would totally be loved and wanted. And their parents would be so thankful to you. I mean -- clearly you care, right? You do, right? This isn't just some weird twisted freudian projection where you're tying to convince yourself how much you love "Life!" and "Humanity!" and "Human Beings!" but in reality you just like controlling others and feeling like you're a savior. You actually DO want to save people (babies!) right? How about we start with the living... those who we ABSOLUTELY DO UNEQUIVOCALLY know feel pain, and we work our way back to third trimester, eventually going all the way back to the little cluster of cells (that definitely does NOT feel pain) that has "the whole genetic code just awaitin' to unfurl in it's glorious lifeyness!").

Okay? Does that sound like a reasonable plan of sane people who are not just mentally tripping and acting like insane people with a fixation?


@Lu2 "Just how often, and how nicely, do we have to couch everything in "we don't think you're just being mean" before they will even entertain the idea that we [too?] believe we have people's best interests at heart?" This sums up my personal feelings - and my DEEP frustration - so well. I have tried being nice, respectful, polite, sincere, and all it got me was more god-bothering, more "I'll pray for you", more "But what about the babies!?", and more and more and more and nastier. If the other side is disrespectful to me, why on EARTH should I be polite and calm to them? They've proven that they can't actually engage on the terms by which they want US to abide, so why should I bother?



Or, how about we step over the dying body of that little innocent child in order to get to my uterus?!

Outta the way, kid! I got work to do! Lives to save! No lady, I'm sorry, I can't help you and your babe -- can't you see I'm busy being a good person?! I have a teenager over here who I have to force to have a child she does not want, severely hampering her dreams of ever having a chance to climb out of poverty or to cultivating the resources (emotional and financial) that she needs to raise a healthy human being... and here's a grown lady who doesn't want (more) kids and isn't emotionally or financially equipt for a child and doesn't want one...

"Here I come, to save the day....!"

Allie Williams@facebook

@ProLifeFTWProChoice4Life I posted in more detail as a reply to a different post, but yes, you raise a great point. I do not mean to imply that taking care of children who are already born is any less important that the already born ones; simply that one can only take on so many issues personally.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Lu2 By that logic, society should never progress. Would you have been OK with the status quo before suffrage, when women weren't "persons"?

Allie Williams@facebook

@ProLifeFTWProChoice4Life Actually, it's your post that is rambling and incoherent. What I do understand seems to be that pro-lifers should care about children that are already here (true, but not sure how that invalidates the pro life argument as one can do both.) She second, offensively, portrays concern for the most pressing human right issue of the day, as a fetish. Um, OK.


Yes, the Way She Kills The Babies Is Soooo Beautiful. Not Like That Wackadoo Gosnell From Philly. At Least She Kills Them Before They Come Out. There's A Big Difference!


@rushbabe Lol.


@Jinxie Note the screen name.


@Lu2 Ooooh, got it.
Does That Also Explain The Weird All Caps?


@Lu2 Also, my "lol", for the record really meant "I'm laughing because I am done done done with you people and don't any energy left to yell or debate" and not so much "you're funny!".
Also, also, thank you for posting good, well-thought-out, reasoned comments! I hit my reasonable limit a long time ago (hence the gifs and swearing) but I very much appreciate your efforts to remain calm.


@Jinxie Any chance that Jaden Smith has Found His Way Into The Discussion?


@Jinxie Lol Indeed! Btw All Caps Seems To Be A phone Glitch, But It Still Gets The Point Across.


@Jinxie Don't you worry, I totally got your "lol." It came through loud and clear. That was a collegial "note the name." And thanks for the kind words. We all spell each other here with the intruders; when one flags, another can step in. :)


I'm late to this, and so glad I caught up and read it. Thank you Dr.
Robinson and Jia.


@Killerpants Yes, Dr. Robinson, sorry about some of the commenters here. For the most part, they seem not to be regulars, just angry people who got wind of this article and came here to bloviate. They are apparently helpless in the face of reasoned and wise pro-choice discussions.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Lu2 If that were so, how come my fairly peaceful and reasonable posts (I think) are being met with nothing but put-downs, profanity, and funny GIFs? In fact, based on what I am seeing here it seems like the pro-choice side doesn't seem open to reasoned discussion. Unless there is something I'm missing - this is a public forum, no?

And, Dr. Robinson, if you are reading this, rest assured that most of us are not angry and not violent. Just saddened at the needless loss of life and hopeful that you may come to recognize the humanity of pre-born children, quit what you are doing, and take on a new job that really helps women and their children.

Faintly Macabre

@Allie Williams@facebook Because we know how commenters like you work. At first, people respectfully counter your arguments with well-reasoned, fact-based arguments. You and your ilk totally ignore all of those arguments and reply with lots of "I'll pray for you/Think of the children!!!" rude remarks. (And yes, they are rude, and you know it.)

Then, the people who initially replied respectfully to you are rightly offended, because you show no respect or appreciation for their time or views. (And called them baby-killers! Because that never upsets people!) Since you make it clear you don't actually want a serious respectful discussion, you get your unserious, disrespectful discussion.

But that's what you wanted all along! Because now you've dragged the discourse down to where you're comfortable. You get to cry about how rude we've been and claim we have no facts or capability for reasoned discussion, even though you've shown no ability for it yourself.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Faintly Macabre Actually, the humanity of the children IS our well-reasoned, fact-based argument. We feel just as ignored by your side as you do by ours. Not a discourse-dragging attempt, just an attempt to plead a case for the other side.

Faintly Macabre

@Allie Williams@facebook

Just gonna repeat this: "You and your ilk totally ignore all of those arguments and reply with lots of 'I'll pray for you/Think of the children!!!' rude remarks. (And yes, they are rude, and you know it.)"

And I'm out.

Allie Williams@facebook

@Faintly Macabre Fine, if that's how you like it.


@Allie Williams@facebook

I appreciate your efforts at dialogue... There are lots of ways for thesis, antithesis, and synthesis to create the dialectic.

That said... sometimes it's good to know when engaging is unproductive and unfruitful unless or until you can bring it/take it to a higher level.

I don't intend to argue the "nice guy" topic, generally speaking. Because it's just too fraught with psychological issues, and I am not a shrink here to help someone work out their issues which they are deeply invested in. Sometimes you just gotta let the crazy be cray cray and cultivate the non-crazy. Most of your people are cray cray, and you yourself seem a little over-invested in your "reverence" for life while completely ignoring any inconsistencies in your philosophy. If you care so much about life... it's so not hard to pitch in a hand to take care of the living beings who are here already, without worrying and wringing your hands about all those ones who are killed before they get here. There are tons who get killed (often thru starvation and disease) after they get here. Or do you think death by neglect is less evil than euthanasia? If you fall out of a raft and I refuse to give you a rope, but instead watch as you die, or if I push you out of the raft and then watch as you die is one appreciably worse than the other? Either way, you're dead, idk. I think it's just as bad not to save someone as to kill them. Morally, the judgement is pretty much the same.

Allie Williams@facebook

@bothsidesofclouds You have a good point, and as a fairly new pro-lifer maybe I am testing the waters a bit and can be perceived as over-invested. I do not mean to imply that taking care of children who are already born is any less important that the already born ones; simply that one can only take on so many issues personally, and this is the one I am choosing. But it is not just about getting on the internet. Actually I got on board just because the one-sided comments kind of hurt me, you know? I appreciate the kind sentiment :-)


@Allie Williams@facebook So... HUGE post incoming here! Allie, I appreciate your style and I very much do believe that you argue honestly and thoughtfully. Thank you for being so reasonable! (sorry if this sounds condescending, not my intention) (also I'm writing in my second language here, so some sentences may be phrased awkwardly)

I want to suggest that the problem might be not that two different OPINIONS are clashing, but two different WORLDVIEWS. (Also, since the subject is "prochoicers are murderers, prolifers are dehumanizing oppressors" I think it's pretty much impossible to go "well, let's agree to disagree" - people do NOT want to let someone disagree with them about whether they promote murder or not, because most people feel it's extremely important to not be thought a murderer... =P)

This is what I see. (I try to stick with the SMARTEST arguments for both sides, in order to be as fair as possible)

The worldview that makes a pro choice opinion logical: Autonomy. A human being should get to choose their own life. They should get to use their own will and wishes to decide what happens to them. No one can commandeer another person's body, not even if they really need something that that body has (blood, bone marrow, a kidney, a hospitable womb), because a body belongs to the inhabitant only. This is a very common view, at least in the West (no idea about the rest of the world). For example, you can never make anyone donate a part of their body, not even blood that repleneshes itself. You can't even make a DEAD person donate against their expressed will, even though they don't exist anymore and don't need their body. THAT'S how important autonomy is. So, an embryo or a fetus has no RIGHT to inhabit another person's body. The woman was there first. The body is hers, and only hers. She gets to decide if she wants to let them grow there or not. If she decides that she doesn't want to let the fetus stay inside her, she gets to remove it. Unfortunately for the fetus, this means that the fetus dies. Many (most?) pro choicers do feel that this is very sad, but that the tragedy of this consequence doesn't override the right to bodily autonomy. Some (many?) people are so secure in their belief in autonomy that this isn't very traumatic at all. (This varies from culture to culture, in some cultures abortion is percieved as more tragical than in others where they are percieved as neutral and necessary)

The worldview that makes an anti-abortion opinion logical: Sacrifice. For this opinion to "work", you need to believe that bodily autonomy can be overridden, that it's not NECESSARILY wrong to use a body that isn't your very own. A lot of anti-abortion people seem to feel that "rights" are more like "privileges" that you can deserve to have or not have. Everyone starts out with a right to their body, but that right can be lost. So, a fetus has a right to their body, because it hasn't yet had the opportunity to do anything that makes it lose that right, but a pregnant woman doesn't have the right to have her body completely to herself, because the innocent fetus needs it too. Some people judge her actions to decide how much she can claim her body, based on how much she did to prevent an embryo from implanting there (was she exposed to sperm willingly, accidentally or by being forced by somebody else?). I, and many others, think these people are horrible, because no one gets to judge other people's lives and actions like that. The judgments obviously has nothing to do with the FETUS'S right to live. They are instead judging whether the WOMAN has earned or lost the right to bodily autonomy. That shouldn't even matter if the immorality of abortion is about the fetus, because a fetus is just as dead if it's aborted from an 11-year-old incest victim as from a happy-go-lucky party girl who tends to skip condoms. This kind of anti-abortion thought is solely based on the principle that bodily autonomy is something you have to deserve. Other people don't think like this and take care to express that they don't care how the fetus got there, they just think that the woman has a duty to share her body with the fetus since it would otherwise die. They may not believe in judgment but they do believe in a duty to sacrifice.

However, a person who DOES believe in autonomy logically does NOT believe in mandatory sacrifice. That's where the rage comes from - "why should someone who believes in sacrifice get to sacrifice ME, just because THEY believe in sacrifice? I don't even believe that a duty to sacrifice can exist! I should get to CHOOSE whether I sacrifice or not! Why does no one care about MY beliefs? Am I really just an incubator to them?"

And the empathic people on the anti-abortion side get angry because they DO believe in duty, even bodily duty, even bodily duty that you didn't choose to take up, at least when there's a life at stake. Even though an embryo isn't really much of a life, it's the PRINCIPLE that counts! Would YOU have wanted to never get a chance to live? No, so clearly every fetus should be given a chance to grow up, and unfortunately this means that we have to commandeer women's bodies for nine months and tell them that they HAVE to give every implanted embryo a chance.

If you're still reading this post despite its length, Allie, here's a piece that I think you might be interested in: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/10/how-i-lost-faith-in-the-pro-life-movement.html
It's written by a woman who used to be a "save the babies" pro-lifer (as opposed to "punish the sluts" pro-lifer) and then discovered that anti-abortion politics actually does not save more babies, but instead causes MORE embryos and fetuses to die. She tells her story and discusses birth control, logical inconcistensies, the anti-abortion movement and what actually can be done to minimize abortion and save more kids.

Ettore Bellardini@facebook

I have never met a vegan prolifer. To these god freaks only human life is valued. Non human life is for humans to exploit. They are losers, uneducated. brainwash their children and are ignorant to scientific fact.


@Ettore Bellardini@facebook That's interesting. I'm vegan and pro-choice. I know there are vegan anti-choicers, but I have noticed something of what you said.


Thankyou for the work you do Dr Robinson, I'm so glad intelligent women like you exist in the world.


Good sharing. Thanks.
hermes bag


Thank you so much, Dr. Robinson. I hope I never need an abortion. I hope no one I know ever needs an abortion. But I hope that if they do, there will be doctors like you available to help.

James Edward Smith@facebook

I pray that someone exacts some tiller style justice on you.


@James Edward Smith@facebook You are the worst kind of person.


Thank you for reposting- cannot wait to get hold of this movie!

Micka Gita@facebook

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The practice of abortion has always been a long-standing debate between the pros and cons. Between him as the murder of human life and defend it as a health practice. We should have an awareness that the life is a gift of God. Whatever the human condition to be born, we should accept it as a gift. But when it comes to the choice of whether to save the life of a mother or both lose, then abortion is an option.

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