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On website, Minnesota couple asks world whether they should abort 17-week fetus

ST. PAUL If they were looking for attention, they got it. An Apple Valley, Minn., couple who said they will let the Internet decide whether they abort their now-17-week-old fetus is at the center of a media circus. Pete and Alisha Arnold's websit...


If they were looking for attention, they got it.

An Apple Valley, Minn., couple who said they will let the Internet decide whether they abort their now-17-week-old fetus is at the center of a media circus.

Pete and Alisha Arnold's website, birthornot.com, has drawn ire from people on both sides of the abortion debate. A poll on the site asks simply, "Should we give birth or have an abortion?"

As of Thursday evening, more than 44,000 votes had been cast, and 80 percent of respondents said the couple should continue the pregnancy. So many people weighed in from both sides of the issue that the site crashed Thursday.


Alisha Arnold, reached at her Apple Valley home, said hackers also temporarily took over the site. As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Pete Arnold said the site had 60,000 unique views.

The act of creating the website raises a host of questions -- about whether the couple is serious, what they're really trying to accomplish, the instant celebrity offered in the Internet age and how today's seemingly shocking or outrageous act will, inevitably, be topped by something tomorrow.

Alisha Arnold maintained that the site was not a hoax and the couple had no "hidden agenda." She also said they weren't looking for media attention.

"I didn't think it would go anywhere," Alisha Arnold said. "There are so many websites out there."

Pete Arnold's mother, Sandi Arnold, said the two were serious.

"They'll look at the vote," said Sandi Arnold of Stanton, Minn. "They said they have the right to veto, just like the president."

Sandi Arnold, who described herself as "pro-life," was at the couple's home Thursday to support Alisha, who is on bed rest, during the public opinion firestorm. Her son, who was out of town on business, called to ask her to help out. But she tried to stay out of the debate.

"This is a very difficult topic," Sandi Arnold said. "Kind of like politics. And some people get really hot under the collar about it. But I never thought it would go this far, and neither did they."


The couple have had three miscarriages, the latter two being planned pregnancies. The current pregnancy was not planned, and Pete and Alisha had hoped to leave more time between the last miscarriage and a new pregnancy.

Alisha said she didn't have an appointment with an abortion provider yet, but "if it's looking like it's going to be that way ... we will definitely be looking into it and setting something up if we need to."

Dec. 9 would be the last day she could legally have an abortion in Minnesota without her health being in jeopardy. The couple said they would close the poll two days before that to make a decision.

Why did they create the poll?

In early Internet blog posts on the site, Pete and Alisha, both 30, laid out their mixed feelings about the pregnancy.

"I feel that as I age I've actually gotten more selfish and set in my ways," Alisha wrote. "I'm afraid that I will eventually regret starting a family and 'settling down,' as they say. I fear that the constant pressure to be the perfect wife and mother while maintaining a full-time job will eventually cause my brain to implode and lead to a nervous breakdown. And the fact that this pregnancy puts a big hold on my weight-loss progress is disappointing."

Pete worried they waited too long to have a baby.

"We've talked often of having 3-5 children, and starting this process with some time in-between (a year at the most) would end up with a 30-36 year gap between me and the children," he wrote. "Would I be able to give them the same depth of relationship as my father did? This hill we told each other we'd climb is looking more like a mountain."


The couple have posted video and stills from weekly ultrasounds. They call the fetus, which they say is a boy, Baby "Wiggles."

To Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, that smacks of hypocrisy.

"They express the humanity of the child and then they put it up for a vote," Fischbach said.

Even those who are in favor of abortion rights said letting Internet voters make such a personal choice was suspect.

"This website gives the impression that making this profoundly personal decision is akin to voting on a reality TV show," said Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. "It is an insult to women, and I think most people will dismiss it as a sad attempt to get attention."

Pete, who joined the conversation at his home via speaker phone, said the couple were not too worried about what the child might think if he eventually found out about the website.

"We talked about that and came to the conclusion that we would cross that bridge like talking about sex or drugs," he said. "It's never fun to talk about that sort of stuff with a kid, but we would bring it up. I'm sure the baby would know they have been loved as much as any child."

Birthornot.com took off like wildfire across the Internet on Thursday. Websites from gawker.com to slate.com weighed in, questioning the sincerity of the couple and fueling traffic to the couple's website.


Comments on their site were mostly scathing, but occasionally supportive.

"They're getting comments back like you wouldn't believe, which has Alicia a little worried because some of them are pretty nasty," Sandi Arnold said.

Many commenters said the couple should do some self-examination.

Fischbach agreed.

"They need serious intervention," he said. "They need hours or maybe weeks or months on a couch. ... I don't know these folks, and I can't judge them, but I would question their ability to parent. I think this is a situation where adoption might be the best option."


The following are excerpts from comments left on Alisha and Pete Arnold's website, birthornot.com:

"I think what you're doing is very brave and an excellent demonstration of educated practical people treating parenthood as the serious, life changing experience it is."


-- Taryn

"You people disgust me. While I voted that you should give birth, I don't think that you are fit to be parents."

-- Emma

"I think your baby's vote should count for a good percentage of the poll. Just a thought. My guess is ... he or she would want you to choose life."

-- Lauren

"I am not going to vote ... Personal decisions such as abortion or equal rights should not be left to a majority to decide. ... You are the only one who can make this decision."

-- Amanda

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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