As a story, it's almost too good to be true. In fact, it may not be true at all. The more we look into the online abortion poll posted at birthornot.com, the more suspicious it sounds.
Like a lot of other folks, we read a post at Gawker this morning about an Apple Valley couple, Pete and Aisha Arnold, who claimed to have launched the website as a way for anyone to have a direct say in whether Alisha should terminate her pregnancy.
The site features blog posts, photos and video about their experience with her pregnancy, and how two previous pregnancies ended in heartbreak for "genetic" reasons. On the site, the Arnolds say they weren't sure whether to carry through with this pregnancy or not. So they posted an online poll.
Dec. 9th is the last day we could legally get an abortion in our state. This vote will remain open until 2 days prior to allow for the procedure if decided.
Gawker claims it interviewed the happy couple. We haven't, but we'd like to. There's a Pete and Alisha Arnold listed in the White pages at an address that might approximate their claimed home, but their phone number is unlisted.
Gawker's own commenters are calling the story a hoax. Here's one:
This is crap. Having a 20 week abortion is not easy and it is not free. You mean to tell me they are going to spend thousands of dollars and put her through the hell of a 20 week AB if that is the vote? I used to work at an abortion clinic and I call bullshit.
In order to have an abortion in MN (as in every other state I've worked in), a clinic counselor has to sign a statement that the patient is firm and clear in her decision. "An internet poll told me to do it" is not going to cut it - it has to be clearly her own decision. Not a result of an order or coercion from another person (or the internet). She would be referred out for evaluation and additional counseling.
The couple also say they know the know the sex of the fetus: male. However, they claim to know this at 17 weeks of pregnancy. WebMD and other sources say that's generally too soon to be able to tell:
If you wish to know the gender of your baby, it can usually be determined by 20 weeks. Be sure to tell the health care provider performing the ultrasound whether or not you want to know the gender of your baby. Please note that ultrasound is not a foolproof method to determine your baby's gender; there is a chance that the ultrasound images can be misinterpreted.
We're not the only ones trying to reach the Arnolds. We've heard from a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. who's trying to nail down the story, and a Kansas City woman who believes their tale and wants to adopt their child.
With no one to interview, we plugged the birthornot.com URL into the Whois registry. It told us the domain was registered back in May of this year, even though they say they started blogging and polling about Alisha's pregnancy in September.
Registrar: GODADDY.COM, INC. Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com Status: clientDeleteProhibited, clientRenewProhibited, clientTransferProhibited, clientUpdateProhibited
Expiration Date: 2011-05-17 Creation Date: 2010-05-17 Last Update Date: 2010-05-17
That's some forward thinking.
Whom ever registered the site also wants their identity kept secret. The domain was registered with GoDaddy.com through Domains by Proxy, Inc. -- a GoDaddy subsidiary.
A carefully thought out anti-abortion ruse to raise a ruckus, perhaps? Slate's Amanda Marcotte thinks so.
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.
Maybe not. We'd love to know.
The Birthornot Files: