'"I have that exact doll in my house," said Elizabeth Russell, a dollmaker from Buffalo who had been following the blog. "As soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was a scam."'
"April's Mom," a single mother whose blog chronicled her pregnancy with a child, terminally ill with Trisomy 13 and HPE, whom she was carrying to term, attracted the attention and support of abortion opponents across the country. Every day, thousands of people read about her commitment to keeping the baby, her struggles, her pain - all set to a Christian rock soundtrack and interspersed with Bible verses and anti-abortion links. They sent her stories and prayers, letters and gifts. As the site took off, she got links from other pro-life sites and a number of advertisers. Prominent pro-lifers added a "Pray for April Rose" button to their blogs. By the time "April's Mom" gave birth to the baby - who lived only a few hours - almost a million people were deeply invested in the story.
And so, when they realized it was an elaborate hoax, people were mad (albeit, in many cases, glad a baby hadn't died.) Suspicions were raised when the baby's description didn't match that of a child ill with Trisomy 13 and HPE, a red flag to those of her supporters who had dealt with the illness. Then April Rose looked suspiciously healthy. Then April Rose looked suspiciously like a doll*. These suspicions were confirmed when the author rushed to shut down the site, as well as her popular MYSpace and Twitter. And soon her identity was revealed: she was 26-year-old social worker Beccah Beushausen. Now, instead of checks and gifts, she's getting hate mail.
Beushausen says she feels bad, but that her acts were rooted in a real opposition to abortion - and that she drew on her experience of actually losing a son in 2005. Says the Chicago Tribune,
She had expected only a handful of friends to read it, but when her first post got 50 comments, she was hooked...."I've always liked writing. It was addictive to find out I had a voice that people wanted to hear," Beushausen said..."Soon I was getting 100,000 hits a week, and it just got out of hand, I didn't know how to stop. ... One lie led to another."
It's tempting of course to use this as a chance to take an easy bash at anti-choice, and revel in anything that makes them look foolish, but frankly, I'm just sad for this woman. Although the differences are obvious, in some ways, she's reminiscent of Ashley Todd (she of the inept self-mutilation) who saw the particularly emotional nature of people's political sympathies as an opportunity for attention. While these are deeply disturbed young women, it's also true that in both cases there were communities ready to embrace them ideologically, and that's no coincidence in a world where we see people galvanized by hate-speech and protests of the most lurid and distasteful kind. I don't take any pleasure in anyone extending prayers and thoughts to this woman and finding they were duped, especially those who actually went through the pain of losing a child. But the readiness to politicize, to use her pain and tragedy as a cause - and the anger at being duped, at finding that a baby did not, in fact die - is sobering. This woman saw there was rage and emotion to be harnessed, and she did. The found the attention and the approval - she was doing God's work, after all! - addictive. And that's the scary part.
*The doll in question was allegedly a Reborn. Our sources (aka, Wikipedia) say that "a reborn doll is a vinyl baby doll that has been enhanced to resemble a human baby. The process of creating a reborn doll is referred to as reborning."
Blogger's Baby Was A Hoax [Chicago Tribune]
Grotesque Con-Women for Life (The April's Mom Scam) [BeliefNet]
Little April Rose Is A Fake!!!