Last night, I spoke to the couple that's putting their abortion up to Internet vote. They had no interest in answering certain questions but still claim there's no agenda behind the stunt. Mounting evidence belies that.
The site, Birth Or Not, was briefly down yesterday, which Pete Arnold said was due to 4Chan denial of service attacks and a surge of traffic from coverage yesterday. Pete and his wife Alisha agreed to a brief interview last night, saying they were besieged with requests. Pete did most of the talking, and Alisha kept saying she was overwhelmed and sounded generally miserable.
I asked them why, if they weren't sure they wanted to be parents, why they'd gotten pregnant three times in recent memory. Did they believe in birth control? He replied that they'd been sure the first time, and maybe the second (for which they first registered the site in May), but the third pregnancy was definitely unplanned because "we were trying to let Alisha have more time to heal between the second miscarriage and the pregnancy. It wasn't completely 100 percent planned."
Asked what their concerns were about being parents, the Arnolds declined to discuss them. "This whole thing isn't really about our concerns as parents," Pete said. What is it about? "So many people make decisions on who they're going to vote for based on their stance on pro-life and pro-choice, and very people have more opportunity than just expressing their views to their representatives, so we kind of felt that it would be nice for people to voice their opinions in a way that actually makes a difference in the real world on this topic."
They've repeated the same talking points in these interviews — a vague mashup of civic language, that they want to "make a difference" and give people a chance to have their votes count. It's a rather cynical point to make just after the midterm elections, where votes actually did count over more than just Alisha's fetus.
I pointed out that being pro-choice doesn't mean you think abortion is the answer to every pregnancy, and that the idea is that a woman, not random people on the Internet, makes the right choice for her. "When you come right down to it, that's the definition of choice, you know, whether it be one person or a thousand people, a choice is a choice," Pete insisted.
Everyone agrees that the later into a pregnancy you wait, the greater the chance of complications. So why wait until the last legal minute for a possible abortion?
"We think that what's legal when it comes to an abortion is safe," Pete replied. I said that it was safe, but it was still a medical procedure that involved risk, and greater risk as time went by. At that point, Alisha claimed we had to wrap it up, though we ended up continuing.
I asked her if she'd made an appointment at a clinic in advance just in case, and she said no. I asked why they had learned the sex of the fetus if they didn't plan to carry to term, and they said the test showing it was a boy couldn't be guaranteed because Alisha has a disorder that causes her to produce more male hormones.
What happens if they keep the baby and he or she learns of this stunt?
"I think all parents have difficult things they have to discuss with their children, whether it be that first sex talk, or drugs, or something, so this is just another thing that we'll cross the bridge when we come with it," Pete said. "We've got a lot of time to do that."
They denied that they want a reality show — Alisha said she could barely handle the attention thus far — or that it's an anti-choice prank. "It's definitely not a prolife stunt," Pete said. "We are a typical Minnesota household that is split on a lot of things politically. Just because we hail from different sides of the political aisle, whether it be independent or moderate, that doesn't mean one side or the other is guiding everything we do as a couple."
But it was when I asked them when they thought life begins that things really derailed. "I need to go," said Alisha." Pete said, "I believe that if you open up a scientific text book it mentions the animal life cycle and I would refer to that when deciding when life begins. Now when life is viable, that's a whole other topic." Which definition mattered to him?
"That's a fantastic question," he said, "but I think we've used a good amount of time so far so we'll leave you in suspense on that one."
There's a little less mystery around Pete's internet trail, though. Yesterday, an anti-climate-denial site noticed that the Arnolds' site is monitored by the same Google analytics account as a rabidly anti-global warming site called Church Of Global Warming.
An unbylined piece on The Church of Global Warming is annoyed about people who want to regulate emissions but are pro-choice:
They will undoubtedly spout something about how the woman's right to choose, bla bla bla. Well, I am tired of my Automotive Freedom of Choice being compromised because someone things [sic] I shouldn't be driving what I enjoy to drive. Who the hell are you to tell the people that make my products that they have to make something different?
And over at the Moderate Left, Jeff Fecke connected the dots:
Pierre "Pete" Arnold III also 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. He used the aliases "The Pete" and "Zeeboid" - indeed, the latter is both a domain he owns and the userid for his gmail account - but it's not that hard to track down.
Fecke points out that someone using that same screenname, Zeeboid, trolled a Daily Kos wiki and changed the definition of "pro-choice" to mean the following:
The term "pro-choice" is used by men and women who support a woman's right to kill an unborn child.
The term means that a woman has the right to determine whether or not she will be pregnant by killing a baby that has already been conceived.
Well, then, it seems fairly clear where Pete is coming from on this. But his wife? Maybe that's the split he's talking about — in this local news interview, she seems to regret the entire thing, but does mention that he's been thrilled about all the attention it's getting.
Freedom Of Choice Doesn't Count Unless It's Abortion [Church Of Global Warming]
Birth Or Not Busted [Ministry Of Truth]
Anti Choice Trolling Fail [Blog Of The Moderate Left]
Couple Considering Abortion Creates Online Poll [KSTP]
Vote On Whether This Couple Gets An Abortion [Gawker]