“Your worst case scenario is something we would kill for”

Reproductive rights advocate Robin Marty on what's really happening in states with abortion bans

April 5, 2023

In the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court decision to block a Texas’ judge ruling that would have overturned the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the abortion drug mifepristone, many reproductive justice activists rejoiced. But Robin Marty, the director of operations for the West Alabama Women’s Center and the author of Handbook for a Post-Roe America, tells The Meteor, “I did not give a crap either way.”

That’s because where she lives, access to medical abortions is already illegal.

Marty spoke to The Meteor after the decision about what the case meant to patients in states like hers—and what we all can do to help.

Megan Carpentier: As someone working in reproductive healthcare in a state that recently made abortion illegal, why did you find the Friday’s decision anticlimactic?

Robin Marty: I did not give a crap either way because it feels like this entire lawsuit exists solely for two reasons: It exists so that the anti-abortion movement feels like they’re doing something. They needed another fight to keep pressure on politicians, to keep activists engaged, and to keep raising money.

But it also exists because it could divide our movement. Until the point at which this decision happened, blue states were at least trying to provide some sort of assistance to states like mine. After the decision, they all got distracted and began thinking: How do we maintain our own status quo? and began spending all their money buying as much medicine as they can.

They are so busy trying to make sure that abortion remains exactly as it is in blue states, and the red states are left to flounder.

What do you think the end game is for anti-abortion activists?

We know that the goal is to end up with a complete federal abortion ban. They believe that, somehow, they are going to be able to create a Christian theocracy. I don’t see how that’s ever truly going to exist—but also, I did not imagine democracy falling apart as quickly as it has over the last four years. And, being in Alabama, I can see what it will look like if we end up in a place where we no longer have a functioning federal government that ties all these states together.

Honestly, Alabama opted out of the federal government years ago. They opted out of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. They opted out of using federal COVID funding on actual healthcare; instead, they chose to build a prison for a billion dollars. And after abortion was made illegal and the federal government tried to say, “The veterans’ hospitals are federally-funded sites, so we can have this tiny little bit of abortion available there, for people who are on veterans insurance and either have had pregnancies as a result of sexual assault or are having health complications.” Our attorney general literally said, “No, you can’t do that. If a doctor does that, I’m going to arrest him and throw him in jail for 99 years.”

And then the federal government just kind of said, “Oh, I guess you’re right.”

[Ed note: They did offer to defend healthcare workers who get arrested.]

Alabama is not playing by the rules of the rest of the country and what worries me is that Alabama is the bellwether of what red states are going to try and get away with.

What should women or organizations be doing to help in states like Alabama?

I would love to see something really big and bold. I would love to see people actually pressing back against these laws.

I have this fantasy and, in my fantasy, I contact 50 really well-known superstars—actors, musicians, etc.—and they all come down to Alabama with one pack of medication abortion. And patients come (because patients aren’t supposed to be able to be arrested over this) and each one of these superstars—Gweneth Paltrow, everybody—says, “OK, here’s your medication.” They hand it out to the patients and they risk the 99 years in jail, because we can’t do it. People like me, people like Dr. Leah Torres, we can’t take that risk right now…but they can.

They have the resources, they have the endless amounts of money to spend on lawyers. Imagine if they just came down here and did that as an active act of defiance.

What is one thing blue state readers should take away?

There is a possibility that mifepristone could disappear but, if that does happen, it’s not that big of a deal. The sky is not falling. There are other medications that can be used. Yeah, it’s not as pleasant, but they will still have access to all misoprostol, to methotrexate, to all the other things that you can use. You’ll be able to still get your procedural abortions. Your worst case scenario is something that we would kill to be able to have access to here.

Megan Carpentier is currently a freelance editor. She’s also worked at Oxygen, NBC News, The Guardian, and Jezebel, among other places. Her work has been published in Dame, Rolling Stone, Glamour, The New Republic, and many more.