As we have discussed at length, technology has helped the human race accomplish more than ever thought possible, between computers, televisions, other machines and even cars. They have made our lives easier, at times more simple, and facilitated jobs that used to take weeks into tasks that can be completed with the click of a mouse or the push of a button.
It is not always that simple, however. Technology can complicate decisions, be taken advantage of, and plainly be used irresponsibly. Recently, CNN discovered a website called “birthornot.com” run by a Minnesota couple, and Dan Gilgoff wrote the article; “Wesbite takes votes on whether woman should get abortion”. Alisha and Pete Arnold created a blog in order to poll websurfers regarding their opinion on whether or not they should give birth to a child or have an abortion. This has obviously caused controversy, and the media worldwide has gotten wind of it. The Arnold’s state that “voting is such an integral part of the American identity. Why not vote on whether to continue or abort an actual pregnancy? Your vote can help a real couple to make a decision on this issue”, however it seems that this is a simple way to get publicity. Why broadcast something as intimate, private and emotionally draining as a decision of whether or not to keep one’s child? The motives of this couple are certainly questionable, and I can't help but think that they are just trying to benefit from media hype, rather than realize that this is a real and serious subject matter. The ease with which the choice is being made is alarming, and the Arnold’s decision to make this website further trivializes abortions by showing more people that don’t take the pain, cost, and ethics into consideration or appreciate the fact that this is a choice available to them that is not to many others around the world.
On the blog there are biographies of both Pete and Alisha, where you can see that both graduated from college, and learn about their “relationship history”, including the fact that the couple has had two miscarriages. Seemingly harmless enough, then you look into their entries and discover that you, and millions of others across the world, can see the ultrasound images of their fetus as well as updates on its measurements each week.
They write, “We would like to keep you informed on our pregnancy as if it was your own; posting our thoughts and feelings as we struggle to make this decision”.
It baffles me that anyone would honestly ask strangers for advice on such a touchy subject. And both Alisha and Pete have spoken to the media saying that the “blog is authentic” and that “it’s not a hoax—that’s for sure. We put a lot of time into this before posting”. I find it especially controversial as the heading of the site says, “Help Us Decide, a Real Abortion Vote: You can vote and choose whether we abort or keep our unborn child. For the first time, your vote on the topic of abortion can make a difference”. It’s as if the Arnold’s are trying to make a political statement rather than considering the fact that they are asking random people to make a huge life decision for them, not to mention the life of their unborn child. Regardless of whether or not you are pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, this should be a real and serious personal determination.
Others seem to agree. As CNN reported, Ted Miller, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote in a statement, “This website gives the impression that making this profoundly personal decision is akin to voting on a reality TV show. It is an insult to women and couples who have struggled with making the decision. Most people will dismiss the site as a sad attempt to get attention”. With the polls closed, the total amount of voters has reached over two million, and the number of comments is huge at 4,233 and growing. While the couple said they would originally close the poll two days before the last day they could legally get an abortion in Minnesota (which seems somewhat responsible) recent media coverage and debates on the morality of the poll itself, as well as spam and fraud, have ended the vote. The results, though the couple says they will be “analyzed by a third party and published as soon as we get them” thus far stand at 77.63% to get an abortion and 22.37% to have the baby.
I can't help but think about the strides that have been made in our society since the Rowe vs. Wade court case in 1973, when women officially got the right to make the abortion choice for themselves, and how the Arnold’s seem to be taking advantage of all of our liberties. Maybe they are even completely disregarding the fact that abortion is a freedom that many people have died for, not to mention one of which women all over the world day after day wish they had the choice.
The decision to have an abortion cannot be made lightly, as it is both an expensive and extraordinary painful process as described in “Abortion, Vacuum Cleaners, and the Power Within” by Inga Muscio. As someone who has gone through several of the procedures, Muscio encourages that “the real fight for human rights is inside each and every individual on this earth” and that a crucial way to discuss abortion would be “personally and intimately with friends”. My feelings on the matter couldn’t be more similar. Though I have not had to deal with this issue up to this point in my life, I think that many solutions to our problems should mostly come from looking within oneself instead of outside. Especially in a circumstance so private and delicate as abortion, the conclusion should be debated at length amongst those involved (i.e. spouses) as well as close friends. I don’t think that abortions are necessarily something to be ashamed of, but I also feel that publicizing them gives the impression that it is something that is not taken seriously, and can be taken for granted. What the Arnold’s are doing, seemingly taking the advice from two million strangers, is shocking and honestly disappointing for me to see as someone who is actively learning about feminism and women’s studies.
Many of the thousands of comments that were made are compelling and well thought out. Firstly, someone wrote in, “Of course you have a right to do this, as it's a free country, but I find it very distasteful that you would allow people to vote as to whether you give birth to your baby or not. It's a baby!! It's a human being!” This person has touched upon both the freedom to choose (and to vote) but the questionability of their decision to allow others to come to a choice for them. Another person posted, “if you guys are so ****** dumb to post some **** like this, and rely on it to tell you what to do, don’t spread your seed, we don’t need any more idiots to have kids. That being said, you have no reason to have an abortion…” And also, “What a pathetic and disgusting ploy to get your 15 minutes of fame. You should be ashamed of yourselves. A poll where strangers vote on the life of an innocent child? Seriously? If you choose to have this baby, please think about adoption so the baby will be raised in a good, stable, a loving home, which is something you obviously cannot provide.” As these strangers show through their comments, whether they are pro-life or pro-choice (and there are many on both sides) it is not only embarrassing but also irresponsible that this couple has created this blog and poll. I find it amazing that so many people took the time to give the Arnold’s advice. Most advised them against keeping the child, for the sheer reason that the couple felt that this media hype would be a positive thing for them. Most of all however, it goes to show that despite all of the ways that technology has helped us, the use of it immaturely (or stupidly) and/or simply taking it for granted, can backfire and actually complicate the achievement of our goals.
Findlen, Barbara. Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. Seal Press. Copyright 1995.
Gilgoff, Dan. "Website takes votes on whether woman should get abortion". CNN. 11/19/10. http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/19/minnesota.abortion/index.html?iref=allsearch