In case you missed it, Gawker reported yesterday that a young couple identified as Pete and Alisha Arnold, both 30 years old, have started a website titled Birth or Not, which they are using to poll the public about whether or not they should give birth to or abort their now 16-week-old fetus.
I just scrolled through the entire Birth or Not site for the first time, and I feel sick to my stomach. Like, worse than Pedophile’s Guide sick. I’ve never wanted to throw up and cry at the same time before (at least not sober, anyway). And the fact that this site, which is such an obviously glaring attempt to manipulate the public’s psyche and consciousness, is likely a hoax spearheaded by a pro-life group? Well, that just makes me wanna scream.
I join Adrian Chen at Gawker and Amanda Marcotte at Slate’s XX Factor blog in their skepticism about the veracity of the site. Before I’d even taken a look at the site itself, I scoffed at the idea, thinking no one in their right (or wrong) mind would do such a thing. Mentally ill people would not be able to put such an elaborate scheme together and execute it in such a polished way, and sane people do not put the future of their unborn child up for a vote. Further to that point, people who are truly considering an abortion do not typically refer to the fetus as a boy as this couple does, nor do they speak warmly about fetal development. The couple has been getting weekly ultrasounds to check on the health of the baby, which is not standard practice (as any parent knows). Marcotte notes that “ultrasounds are fetish objects for anti-choicers,” and obviously this type of attention to detail works in the grand design of this horrifying prank, as we are meant to think that this couple is simply undergoing quality pre-natal care in the event that they choose to give birth.
But that’s just the thing: as Marcotte so wisely notes in her post on the subject:
Putting what you do with your body up to a vote is the anti-choice view. Treating women’s bodies like they’re public property is the anti-choice view. True, most anti-choicers think a woman’s rights should be voted on in order to force childbirth, and they’re making this more open-ended, but the underlying sentiment–that women’s bodies are public property, that their choices should be determined by strangers–is what the pro-choice movement rejects.
Precisely. I’m staunchly pro-choice, though there are few scenarios in which I can actually imagine myself having an abortion. Friends of mine, however, are quite vocal about their willingness to abort without any hand-wringing at all, and even those women, my friends who are able to talk about abortion with great ease, would never, ever create a website asking the public about how they should handle their reproductive decisions.
And so, as someone who is pro-choice but who feels deeply that abortion is no joke, I am shocked and disgusted that any pro-life group could take it upon themselves to present such an overly simplistic view of the pro-choice position. Yes, the majority of women (and men) in this country believe women should be able to choose the ways in which our bodies are used, but that doesn’t mean we advocate the random termination of pregnancy at the whim of 4Chan users.
Gawker’s Chen pointed out today that “Pete Arnold used to be a researcher, contributor, and part time producer for the Race to the Right radio show in St Cloud. He blogged at Always Right, Usually Correct, which had a hard anti-choice bent…. Arnold change(d) the definition of pro-choice in a Daily Kos Wikipedia entry to: The term pro-choice is used by men and women who support a woman’s right to kill an unborn child.”
So, yeah, this whole thing is probably a pro-life prank to some extent: If the vote turns out to be in favor of having an abortion, the Arnolds could suddenly see the light and realize that all life is precious or something. If the vote comes out in favor of keeping the kid, it’s proof that most people are pro-life. (The poll currently sits at 80 percent for birth—just a few more days left to vote!) The real punchline will come when the Arnolds explain to their kid how they used his birth to make a pathetically confused political point.
And to Chen’s last point: my suspicions tell me this couple is not really pregnant at all. Who’s to say this couple is who they claim to be, and that the site is being run by a couple at all? It could just as easily be some sort of performance art/media piece meant to highlight the ways in which technology is creeping ever further into our personal lives and how willing people (theoretically) are to give up their right to privacy. Whatever it is, it seems very clear that this site is not one that will ultimately result in the abortion of a fetus, even if that’s what the public deems is their will.
On the other hand, what if that were to happen? What if the whole point of this site is to prove that people are heartless – not just the public, but this “couple” themselves? What if an abortion really is the outcome of this experiment, what then? Twisting the public into believing they are responsible for an abortion is not illegal, but it’s certainly immoral, which is why I think this site disturbs me so much. No matter which side of the abortion debate the people behind it are on, they are clearly unscrupulous, sociopathic manipulators with no moral high ground from which to stand on and preach.