Question: What happens when you pair a committed anti-abortion feminist with cool hair with an abortion access fanatic freelance writer with a V hat?
Answer: Nothing you could ever imagine.
If there’s a speaker pair story we’ve seen that yells from the top of the Usually Angry Civic Rooftops that “this, America, this is what democratic disagreement is supposed to look like” it would be Destiny and Robin. Their disagreement is about abortion – the cultural disagreement that is most long-lived, depressingly entrenched, dangerously divisive, and most set-in-concrete. If we watch Robin and Destiny, it isn’t just that they teach us how to disagree with respect (and irrepressible wit), it’s that they teach us that it’s the very act of engaging with people you deeply disagree with that you create the space that generates something tangible.
And they don’t sort of disagree on what is – for each of them – the central focus of their lives. They deeply disagree. A bit of video viewing ought to give you an idea of just how much these subversive friends disagree:
Journalist, Writer, Feminist, Abortion rights activist, Bridge-builder, Mother of Chaos Demons, Undercover introvert, (Passively) aggressively Midwestern, Pro-life movement obsessed, True-true, hard-core pro-abortion militant (according to NRLC)
Robin is a writer, here’s a book she wrote. In early 2019 she’s releasing Handbook for a Post-Roe America, about which Robin mused to Destiny that she might not want to associate with her anymore (as we said they really disagree).
Destiny on Robin: Robin’s description of why Destiny hasn’t gotten us her comments about Robin yet: “Destiny is basically on day 300 and something of some nasty illness and has been incapable of much more than breathing and and an occasional witty text to prove she’s not quite dead yet.” Destiny’s occasional witty text: “This is all part of my brilliant strategy. If I let Robin do all the work and say all the things then I’m automatically the underdog. And because I’m basically dying from some sort of bronchial demon squad overtaking my lungs, people will have to feel sorry for me and take my side. That’s how I make everyone pro-life feminists.”
Robin on Destiny: Destiny truly cares about women and girls. Many anti-abortion activists throw around the word “feminist” but really only care about stopping abortion. Regardless of race, economic, marital or immigration status, sexual orientation or gender identity, Robin is willing to work on common ground issues that benefit everyone – even with people who disagree with her on the abortion and birth control topic. It’s a very rare thing to find.
Their Superhero Origin Story: Robin decided one year to embed with the March for Life and experience what it would be like to be a pro-life activist. She reached out to Destiny to see if she could hang out with the Pro-Life Feminist contingent, and Destiny sweetly agreed. Then she turned around and made a youtube video calling Robin a “catfish,” with puppets and everything. Robin’s not still mad… she swears. Since then, they’ve been the best of frenemies – attending panels, filming debates, Robin getting Destiny kicked out of the Women’s March… (oh, wait, forget that part). Together, they’ve put the “fun” back in fundamental differences over abortion, birth control, and bodily autonomy.
Their Talk: “What The Movements get wrong.” Destiny and Robin really want to focus on how there doesn’t need to be such a stark divide. To do that, they’d like to have their events work in a particular way, as they put it: “We only chat a little, and we let the audience ask questions (sort of an ‘ask an Activist’ thing). We also want to do something a little different, and answer each other’s questions. So we will try to answer from the other person’s point of view as a way to show that understanding WHY the other side believes what they believe is the key to finding common ground.”
Examples – Robin: “Well, the reason the pro-life movement does X comes from the inherent belief that life truly begins and has full value at the moment of conception and is an equal human being. If you have that intrinsic belief, of course any attempt to stop a pregnancy looks like murder.”
Destiny: “The pro-choice movement is obviously afraid that any restriction they accept on their side becomes a tool that the pro-life movement will then use against them to make abortion completely illegal and maybe even birth control. Since some of our side does equate the two, it’s understandable that they be hesitant to work with us.”
Movement myths they agree must be dispelled: ”Pro-choice feminists hate babies”…“Pro-life activists hate women”…“all women regret abortions”… “opposing abortion is only about religion.”
They’ll ask questions like: “Can you still be a feminist if you oppose abortion?” “Roe may be ending, is that a win or loss for women?” “What can you do now on campus to help those who might get pregnant – expanding access to both pregnancy prevention and pro-parenting resources.” And: “How generational change in movements will change what pro-life and pro-choice activists can to together – moving past the second waver and Rescue Movement to find even better ways to help pregnant people.”
Robin and Destiny completely disagree on abortion, and have some disagreements on birth control. But they agree that labels mess everything up – aka: Pro-choice is a stupid label. + Pro-life is a stupid label too. They agree that there isn’t a space for people like them who want to talk about how to push for structural change in our society – changes that could create on-campus family housing with daycare centers, that could offer teen moms support to finish schools, that could encourage remote working options and paid parental leave, or end welfare caps, or provide real health care options or all of these other things that will support those who get pregnant.
Robin thinks that what a person believes and feels at any given moment about abortion may not be what they think down the road, and that is why people need to remain open to working with others even if they disagree with them. Abortion is and always will be a very emotional, very personal topic. Pro-choice people have abortions and later decide they are pro-life. Pro-life people have abortions when faced with a crisis pregnancy themselves, or decide at other points in their lives, for other reasons, that they support abortion rights. Some pro-life people even come in for abortions, have them, and turn right back to protesting abortion. There’s a saying in the reproductive rights movement that women who have babies and women who have abortions are often the same women, they are just at different points in their lives. Robin wants college students to understand this – that you can oppose abortion or support abortion, and you might change your mind for some reason, and that’s completely okay.
The time-space continuum to consider: Robin is in Minneapolis, MN. Destiny is in Dallas, TX.
What the pair would need to come to your school: They’ll need you to cover travel. Robin’s ideal fee would be $500 just to cover the fact that she’ll get stuck with probably a cab ride because the airport is dumb and it’s not her very favorite way to pass time. Destiny agrees completely. (It can happen).