In Memory of Robin Rothrock
I wouldn't be the feminist I am today if it weren't for the internet.
I said this while on Digital Sisterhood Radio earlier this month and I've been meaning to expand on that statement for weeks. The death of Robin Rothrock brings me back to that thought.
I 'met' Robin on a listserv around 1995-1996. I was a know it all college student and she was amazing. This was my first evidence of the power of the internet. Somehow, I still don't know how, I was invited to join a new women's organization that was online. It sent out an e-newsletter and with your paid dues could join a listserv. After a trial period, I had no problem sending a $10 check to this group to maintain my membership for access to the listserv. That list connected me to feminist activists around the country, many of whom had reputations older than I was at the time. They weren't old, they were experienced and for the most part eager to share their knowledge with a pretty young feminist.
Reminder, this was happening during the Clinton administration and just after the GOP took over Congress. There was a lot to celebrate and worry about. I remember us discussing current events, pending bills and the history behind most of those two things. Why would someone as feminist as Hillary Clinton support welfare reform? What is behind the GOP push to pass a bill outlawing something called "Partial Birth Abortion" and what the hell is that procedure anyway?
I learned so much on that listserv. And I learned a lot from Robin.
When I joined the list, I was certainly pro-choice, but all I knew of reproductive health issues were things I had read about in the paper and going to the Planned Parenthood clinic each month for my pack of pills. Robin was the owner of a women's health clinic and shared her experiences with the group.
One such experience was the case of Michelle Lee, then 26, who had two children, a weak heart and an unplanned pregnancy. Due to the laws of Louisiana, Lee was unable to find a doctor to perform an abortion for her. "[LSU has] taken care of me for five years," she said during an interview inside her cluttered cinder-block shack. "They told me I couldn't get pregnant because it'd kill me, and now they're turning their back on me." And of course Lee found her way to Robin. And Robin worked day and night to find Lee a doctor who would do their job and save her life.
This case and Robin's insights helped propel me from a pro-choice feminist to the activist I am today.
Robin shared with us a lot of the fights she took on for the women of her area. They were the same fights that many activists took up in the USA. The same fights Robin and other providers have been fighting for years. She had just won a case in the fall against the state of Louisiana to keep her clinic open. The fighting won't stop with her death, especially as the same fights are being fought across the ocean.
Our listserv isn't as active as it was back in the late-1990s, but a lot of us still keep in touch. Thus when I heard that she died earlier this week my heart broke.
The reproductive justice and feminist communities lost a hero this week. A hard working hero who wanted something so very simple, for women to be able to make the best decision for themselves and their families.
All I can do is say thank you to Robin. For everything.
Her son posted on Robin's Facebook page a request for people to donate to the Center for Reproductive Rights in lieu of flowers. Robin and CRR worked closely over the years.