FIRST-PERSON: Voting for life -- literally
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--"Hide and watch," my dad used to tell me. "Hide and watch." My father's oft-repeated phrase was a constant reminder that much can be discerned and learned by simple observation. A recent Internet "event" has once again proved the value of my father's wisdom.
In May a Minnesota couple registered the website birthornot.com. Pete and Alisha Arnold said they created the site to give Internet users the ability to vote on whether or not the couple should abort their unborn child.
In November birthornot.com received significant media attention. As a result, the site went viral -- meaning awareness and interest grew exponentially and almost instantaneously. In a span of 30 hours the vote tally on the site went from several thousand to more than 2 million.
Many have speculated about the site's legitimacy. Some have also scrutinized the couple's motive. Was it a pro-life stunt? A pro-choice stunt? Although it remains unclear whether the couple ever took the poll seriously -- media reports say he may be pro-life, she may be pro-choice -- content on the site indicates that Alisha is indeed pregnant and a recent post gives some insight as to the couple's motive.
"Our early disagreement about this pregnancy is what led us to start the website in the first place," Alisha told CNN.
It seems that Pete and Alisha, both age 30, wanted to gauge popular opinion about their situation, not only to give them food for thought, but also to see if the results of their Internet poll would accurately reflect the current cultural divide.
Prior to the media attention showered on birthornot.com in mid-November, the vote was 81 percent in favor of giving birth. After the news of the site went viral, the vote total mushroomed and completely reversed. After all the media attention the vote in favor of aborting the child stood at 77 percent.
The Arnolds originally intended to keep the vote open until Dec. 7, two days before their unborn child would be at 20 weeks gestation. However, with the vote explosion and seemingly skewed results, the couple has closed the voting.
What are we to make of the birthornot.com phenomenon? What can we learn if we "hide and watch?"
It seems that to some younger Americans abortion has become accepted as a casual procedure akin to changing one's hair color. While the Arnolds contend they are taking their situation seriously, setting up a website to poll the public on whether or not their unborn child should live or not is, at best, callous.
The Arnolds posted ultrasound pictures of their unborn child on birthornot.com. They even called the healthy unborn child "Baby Wiggles." Even with medical evidence staring them in the face, the couple claimed they may abort the child.
The Arnolds are 30 years old which means they were born around 1980. The pair was born seven years after the Supreme Court declared in Roe v. Wade that abortion on demand is legal throughout the United States. They have grown up in a culture that allows an unborn child to be killed for any reason or for no reason.
If ideas have consequences, then so much more do actual practices. If a practice is allowed and defended by law it will eventually be accepted. From there it is but a small step for the practice to become expected.
Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota -- an abortion advocate -- frowned on the Arnolds' Internet event. "It frames the whole debate in a very flippant and disrespectful way," House told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It portrays woman ... making these decisions lightly...."
House and her NARAL companions bear at least some responsibility for the attitudes of Americans. NARAL has continually and consistently lobbied against any and all consent laws or waiting periods.
According to its website, NARAL opposes informed consent laws which seek to give a woman vital information about her pregnancy and the reality of abortion.
The pro-abortion group is also against laws regarding a waiting period from the time a woman seeks to schedule an abortion -- which is typically only 24 hours. In some states it takes longer to buy a gun than it does to obtain an abortion.
Additionally, NARAL opposes parental consent and notification laws. These laws require a minor to gain a parent's permission or to give a parent notice before an abortion can be performed.
NARAL's attitude toward abortion on demand has certainly contributed to a culture whereby people like the Arnolds adopt a cavalier view of abortion.
Another aspect of culture on display in the birthornot.com event is that of privacy and appropriateness. Once upon a time the Arnolds' situation would have been discussed quietly behind closed doors. Now, however, it is broadcast via the World Wide Web and the media gladly participate.
The Arnolds are part of the "Jerry Springer generation" where no subject is too taboo for public consumption. Add to that the nature of reality TV and social media and we have a culture of young people who seem ignorant concerning privacy, decorum and appropriateness.
While the younger generation helped coin the phrase TMI -- which means "too much information" -- some of them seem incapable of knowing how to apply it properly. The Arnolds' situation is a clear example of TMI.
"You can observe a lot by watching," said baseball great Yogi Berra. Watching the birthornot.com event unfold has been very eye-opening concerning our culture. And what I observe is both troubling and sad.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.