A Minnesota man who put up a website asking people to help him and his wife decide whether to have an abortion admitted Tuesday they never intended to terminate the pregnancy.
Pete Arnold, who describes himself as a conservative/libertarian and has stirred controversy for his conservative posts on several websites, said he wanted to stimulate conversation about the politically charged subject.
Arnold told CNN he bought the domain name “birthornot.com” before wife Alisha became pregnant about four months ago. He said he had been mulling the idea “for some time,” adding that his wife is pro-choice but agreed that abortion was not on the table for them.
“We chose our words very carefully,” Arnold told CNN, insisting the site was not a hoax even though there were never any plans to accept the vote results if abortion won.
Interestingly, Pete’s wife, Alisha, has a somewhat different view. And it’s one that I think gets us closer to the truth about birthornot.com than anything we’ve heard so far.
In a post today, Alisha offers a post that actually rings true – one in which she explains what, in the end, she was trying to accomplish:
Recently we were quoted by CNN as admitting that terminating the pregnancy was never on the table. This is simply not true. My husband may wish that that was the case, but our early disagreement about this pregnancy is what lead us to start the website in the first place. I clearly stated this to the reporter at CNN but my opinion was not included in the article that was published. Although my intentions about this pregnancy may have changed over the course of the last few months I definitely didn’t start out feeling confident about proceeding with it. I was very scared and anxious that I wasn’t healed emotionally from the previous miscarriages to be in the right frame of mind to continue an unexpected pregnancy.
You may think that I have selfish reasons for considering abortion, but anyone who has experienced doubts about whether they want to have a baby surely knows that it’s not an easy decision to make. The fact that I have had major complications from the start just made me more wary and unsure. Even this time around I had a threatened miscarriage which could possibly have made the whole abortion issue moot. I’m the one that lost my job because of the media attention that this website has received and yet my opinions and statements seem to be discounted in favor of my husband’s. Since I’m the one carrying the baby it seems to me that this is a terrible oversight on the part of responsible media professionals.
Pete and I are on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to our beliefs about abortion. I’m sure I will receive considerable harassment about this post, but to me until the baby can survive without the mother (otherwise known as viability) it is not a feasible life. So although my feelings about this pregnancy and Baby “Wiggles” have changed during the time that the website has been up and I don’t believe I could go through with an abortion now, it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a woman’s right to make that decision.
I think this is, for the most part, true – and I say that as someone who still views the site and its overall mission as a hoax. I believe Alisha Arnold when she says she was ambivalent about going forward after a pregnancy after two miscarriages – who wouldn’t be? – and I take her at her word that she is pro-choice.
I think the reason Alisha’s opinions have not garnered the attention of her husband’s is the same reason that the site exists in the first place, the same reason that it is, I believe, a hoax. Because I believe – and the evidence strongly suggests – that the site was a Pete Arnold project, with Alisha going along with it.
Reading through the posts on the site, one thing jumps out at you – Alisha never pushed the vote. She posted about her pregnancy, about working from home, about the development of the fetus, but she never posted about how you – yes, you! – can decide whether she have an abortion. Those posts come from Pete. It was Pete who was doing the trolling, while his wife, the one who was actually pregnant, was dealing with the more serious issues.
My guess – and it can only be a guess – is that Pete Arnold’s response to his wife’s valid concerns about pregnancy was to put up a website that would minimize her role in deciding whether or not to have an abortion. He was the prime mover in this, and he’s been the one front-and-center in the media.
It’s a shame. Because Alisha is right, that hers is in the end the only vote that can or should count in this debacle. The decision to go forward with a pregnancy is, and I believe must be, hers and hers alone. Had she chosen to abort – indeed, should she choose to abort – I will support her in that decision. And I will support her if she wants to go forward with a difficult and emotionally taxing pregnancy. That’s what pro-choice means.
It’s too bad. If not for the stupidity of the poll, and Pete’s preening for the media, I think Alisha could have lent an interesting voice to the discussion on choice. Sadly, that got drowned out by the circus. And it’s too damn bad.
I will say this, though: Pete Arnold has done pro-choicers a service by taking his wife’s real concerns and turning them into a sham. Everyone and their twin sister agrees that birthornot.com ultimately failed because abortion is too serious a decision to be left to strangers, too personal a decision to put up for popular vote. That is absolutely true – and not just for the Arnolds, but for every woman facing a decision of whether to go forward with a pregnancy or whether to abort. Abortion is a right; putting it up for a vote is absolutely, irredeemably, always wrong.