BirthorNot.com: Anti-Choice Trolling Fail

Jeff Fecke

Birthornot.com is purportedly about letting the internet vote on whether Pete and Alisha Arnold of Apple Valley, Minnesota should have a child or an abortion.  Except they are not who they say they are.

This article is crossposted with permission from Blog of the Moderate Left

So let’s say that I was a part of a couple, and one of us was pregnant.1 And let’s say we were ambivalent about having a child for one reason or another. Let’s say we were, as a couple, mulling over aborting the pregnancy.

What would happen then? Well, for most people, what would happen is that we’d discuss it, weigh our options, maybe talk to a trusted friend, and then, the person who was actually pregnant would make a final decision about whether to go forward with the pregnancy, or whether to have an abortion.

But what if we didn’t want that responsibility to fall on us? Well, we could ask the state to dictate to us whether or not we could have our child. But thanks to Roe v. Wade, that’s  a non-starter. Stupid state, not dictating to us what we should do.

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So what else could we do? Well, we could turn to the internet for the answer! Yes, the internet, which we all know is filled with deeply thoughtful and reasonable people who would help us with our decision in a caring and wise fashion. What say we put up a website with a poll, asking whether we should have a baby or not? We’ll put the deadline as the last possible day that abortion is legal in our state, and then we’ll probably do what the kind, intelligent folks at 4chan tell us to do.

If this last line of thinking seems utterly disconnected from reality, you’re the couple behind birthornot.com, a website that is purportedly about letting the internet vote on whether Pete and Alisha Arnold of Apple Valley, Minnesota should have a child or an abortion.

Now, I say purportedly for a reason, but I don’t even have to get to that point for you to immediately say what I said when I read this: there is a better chance that I am the next Mr. Scarlett Johansson than that this website is on the up-and-up. It rings immediately false. What the exact motivation for the falseness is not immediately evident — it could be they’re looking for 15 minutes of internet fame, or that they think this is the path to a reality show. But Gawker’s writeup starts to get to the nub of it:

Pete, who described himself as a Libertarian, framed the couple’s majority-rule abortion as kind of an extreme civics lesson that he hoped would bring the abortion debate home. “Voting is such an important part of who we are as a people,” Pete said. “Here’s a chance where people can be heard about whether they are pro-choice or whether they are pro-life, and it makes a difference in the real world.”

We pointed out an obvious flaw with his logic: The vast majority of people who are pro-choice aren’t pro-abortion, so it wouldn’t figure that they would automatically vote for the abortion option. The only people who would probably vote for the abortion are trolls who want to piss off pro-lifers. (In fact the anarchic message board 4chan has already hijacked the poll a couple times, tilting it to the “abortion” side.) Pete countered that during elections, “people do silly stuff all the time, and their votes get counted anyway.”

As Gawker so aptly points out, this whole poll is just…wrong. It seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be pro-choice. I’m not hoping every pregnant woman out there rushes down to Planned Parenthood to abort. And I wouldn’t tell anyone else what they should do when considering an abortion — not even a spouse or a child — because I don’t even own a uterus, and I certainly don’t have even the slightest bit of claim over anyone else’s.

But it’s this misunderstanding of the pro-choice position that gives the game away. Anyone who’s truly pro-choice would understand why putting a woman’s right to choose up for a vote is wrong. And so we’re left to wonder if the Arnolds aren’t the rabidly pro-choice libertarians that Pete says they are.

Of course, we don’t need to wonder very much. Tracy Clark-Flory espies some useful data on Pete Arnold:

Clearly, this screams “pro-life” Internet prank. The couple insisted to Gawker that they are for real, but their Web trail might suggest otherwise: Pete once posted his super-pro-G.W. thoughts on CNN, and Alisha is a fan of Glenn Beck on Facebook.

Okay…sure, lots of pro-choicers are big Glenn Beck fans. And they loves them some Dubya. And most of them have Facebook profile pictures wearing shirts that talk about them “clinging to their god and their guns.”

Ah, but it gets better. You see, 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. He operates (or used to operate) a site called “The Church of Global Warming.”

Yes, you say, but it’s still possible that the Arnolds are that rarest of creatures, the radical conservative pro-choicer.2

To which I say…remember that I told you Pete likes the name “Zeeboid?” And that he uses it as his gmail handle? Well, what do we have here — it’s an edit in the dKosopedia for “Pro-choice.” An edit on July 16, 2006, by user “Zeeboid.”

Behold, Pete Arnold’s early days of trolling

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.

Also Refered to as Pro Abortion

And…we’re done here. Pete Arnold is an anti-choice troll. He’s upped his game from vandalizing wikis, but it’s just a question of degree, not goal. He and his wife have put together a web stunt to prove either that pro-choicers are callous, bloodthirsty maniacs (which would lead them what Amanda Marcotte predicts is the obvious “change of heart”), or that pro-choicers, faced with the choice to actually “kill a baby that has already been conceived,” will choose not to, because it’s a child, not a choice.

But Pete and Alisha Arnold failed in their trolling, simply because they fundamentally misunderstood the pro-choice view. It’s not surprising; being anti-choice means that you want to decide for others what they must do when faced with the decision to have a child. It’s only natural for them to assume that pro-choicers must want to force women to have abortions against their will. After all, to an anti-choicer, “against their will” is how women should do pretty much everything; it’s just a question of who’s making the decisions for them.

1Probably not me.
2That is to say, the rare radical conservative public pro-choicer. Plenty of radical righties are pro-choice when their own uteruses are involved.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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