Motive questioned in online abortion poll

  • Article by: LORA PABST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2010 - 7:58 PM

Apple Valley couple's Internet history has led some to believe that their effort is disingenuous and they may have a political agenda.

More than 100,000 votes have been cast in an online poll asking whether an Apple Valley couple should have an abortion. But the question emerging from the unusual situation doesn't seem to be, Will they or won't they? Rather, it's: Why did Pete and Alisha Arnold create the website in the first place?

After the Arnolds' website, birthornot.com, went viral this week, skeptics quickly emerged calling the site a hoax. Whether the couple, both 30, will make their decision based on the poll results is unknown. The poll will close Dec. 7, two days before Alisha Arnold's 20th week of pregnancy.

"We are using it to help determine our decision, but we will still make the final decision," she told the Star Tribune on Thursday. A friend who answered the door at their house Friday night said Alisha was resting and could not talk.

The couple's Internet history has raised questions about their motive. The domain name for the website was registered in May, one month after Alisha miscarried during their last pregnancy, according to the website.

Pete Arnold has also been open about his conservative political beliefs on blogs and a radio show, which has led some to declare the poll an anti-abortion stunt. Arnold, an electronic medical records trainer, contributed to the "Race to the Right" radio show in St. Cloud beginning in 2005.

"The whole point here is to let people have a real way to voice your opinion on the topic of abortion and have it actually make a difference in the real world," Pete Arnold wrote on Nov. 1. "We will not take down this vote because some do not take it seriously."

Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, said he was horrified by the Arnolds' website when he first saw it, but then he began to suspect that it was a hoax.

"I think it's important that anyone with a pro-life sentiment always behave in such a fashion that they're respecting the inherent dignity of the unborn child," Scheidler said. "The scenario set up here ... is really pretty contrary to what I think are the bounds of decency."

Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, said she also suspected that the poll was disingenuous because she didn't think it reflected the difficulty of the decision that she has observed in her work.

"It frames the whole debate in a very flippant and disrespectful way," House said. "It portrays women and families as making these decisions lightly and treating it like it's a game show you vote on."

Staff writer Brad Schrade contributed to this report. Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628

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