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Mark Robinson softens public rhetoric on abortion, while condemning LGBTQ Pride flag

North Carolina Republican Mark Robinson speaks to the Charlotte Rotary Club at the Fairfield Inn by Marriot in uptown Charlotte on Aug. 22, 2023.
Nick de la Canal
North Carolina Republican Mark Robinson speaks to the Charlotte Rotary Club at the Fairfield Inn by Marriot in uptown Charlotte on Aug. 22, 2023.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson continued to publicly soften his stance on abortion on Tuesday while also condemning the rainbow Pride flag and saying public education should be free of political agendas.

Robinson is the leading Republican candidate for North Carolina governor. He made the remarks while speaking to the Charlotte Rotary Club in uptown Charlotte.

After delivering a stump speech to the club, Robinson was asked by a woman in the audience to respond to comments he made to a conservative radio host in February, saying he would support a total ban on abortions with no exceptions in North Carolina if elected.

Robinson said he did not recall making the comments, but acknowledged that he had "struggled a great deal" with abortion, and said he no longer believed simply passing restrictive abortion laws was the right approach.

"Even if I did pass a law saying you can't have an abortion, someone's still going to go to Georgia or Florida or somewhere and have their abortion — or New York. That's not how you save lives," he said.

Robinson, who has acknowledged paying for an abortion with his now-wife in 1989, said he began to think differently about his approach during a recent visit to a crisis pregnancy center.

He said he listened to workers talking with pregnant women and encouraging them to keep their children.

"And I realized something — that I should not be that person standing up on that stage saying, 'You can't have an abortion.' That is not who I'm going to be. Jesus Christ wouldn't want me to be that person," he said.

Robinson said he now believes the best way to promote a "culture of life" in North Carolina was through one-on-one conversations and support for pregnant women.

"You save lives by reaching out to those lives, and committing yourselves to make sure that you give them what you can as an elected official to give them life and life more abundantly, and that's what we're going to do here in North Carolina," he said.

His comments contrast with previous statements likening abortion to "murder" and come as Robinson presumably seeks to expand support beyond his conservative base ahead of next year's election.

Robinson also condemns LGBTQ Pride flag, says parents should have more power in education

Following his remarks Tuesday, Robinson was also asked by an audience member about comments he made in June 2021, in which he told a church congregation there was "no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.”

Robinson later sought to clarify his remarks by saying he was describing books with explicit pictures and sexual descriptions available in school libraries.

Gracyn Doctor

While responding to the audience member's question Tuesday, Robinson began discussing the rainbow Pride flag, which he said he strongly disagreed with.

"The rainbow is a symbol of God's covenant with man, and as a Christian, I refuse to see it besmirched," Robinson said. "If it costs me the governorship of this state so be it, but I will not allow it to cost me my soul."

Robinson also told the audience he would make education a top priority if elected governor, and get schools to remove political agendas from lesson plans and focus on improving student outcomes in reading, writing and math.

"Now I've been accused of saying ... I want to get rid of science, history in elementary school. That's not true. Science and history certainly should be part of elementary school," Robinson said.

He also said middle and high schoolers should be taught more about the U.S. government, capitalism and how to succeed with or without a college degree.

Robinson did not take questions from reporters following his remarks.

Primary elections in the North Carolina governor's race will be held in March 2024, and the general election will be held in November 2024.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal