There's a viral video out there that doesn't involve Charlie biting his brother's finger, Ok Go's Rube Goldberg project, or a man on a horse. No, this one is much more serious. Angie Jackson's video of having an abortion (right) has received more than 140,000 hits since she posted it a few weeks ago.
At four weeks pregnant, Jackson said in the video that Planned Parenthood helped her obtain her RU-486 abortion. "I want people to know that it's out there, that if you need this, there's non-surgical options available especially in the earliest stage of pregnancy," she said. "Cramps are getting a bit more persistent," Jackson tweeted. "Definitely bleeding now."
A few outlets picked up Jackson's tweeting, blogging and YouTubing, including CNN and ABCNews. Matthew Balan at the Media Research Center posts the CNN transcript, calling it a "softball interview" from Kyra Phillips.
Phillips: As you well know, we've been looking at all the various comments, both negative and positive to what you did, and these are really harsh. But people wrote in and said- they called you all kinds of names, from being a whore to someone who just couldn't keep her legs closed. They called you a baby killer. I mean, it's even hard for me to say these things because some of those- the e-mails and the responses were so brutal. How did that make you feel? Did that bother you? Did it make you think twice about what you did?
Jackson expresses some pretty strong opinions in her YouTube video and could probably answer a few tougher questions. Later, Phillips defended the story, saying, "...[A]s you can imagine, we received a lot of response about even doing this story because abortion is such a controversial issue, and we really didn't want to get into a debate about abortion, but rather, look at what people are doing now, using social networking, and it brought about a lot of questions about RU-486 that we don't hear a lot about."
If you watch the segment, though, the story is not about social networking or about RU-486. It's a story about the choice that Jackson made and how she's responding to criticism. Phillips, as Balan suggests, fails to explore anything of depth.
On the other hand, ABC does a slightly better job of telling the story straight. However, the story leaves a few details a bit fuzzy. Jackson has a "special needs" child, but we don't know anything about his medical condition. Unlike the CNN interview, ABC doesn't discuss RU-486 and the effects. And yes, you'll see a religion ghost.
Jackson, who calls herself "Angie the Anti-theist," signs off her video saying, "I hope everyone has a great and godless day. Peace." You would think that might prompt reporters to ask her about her religious background, but what little we know from ABC is that she says she grew up in a fundamentalist cult, but we don't know what cult or what it teaches.
To get to the bottom of the news, Slate examines Jackson's religious background. Pretend to ignore the odd headline "The Bizarre Religious Roots of the Abortion Tweeter" the Slate-ish one-sided look for a minute and take it for what it's worth.
Twenty-seven years before the YouTube video documenting her home abortion, Jackson was born at home in what her grandmother, a fringe Christian leader named Carol Balizet, called a "Zion home birth," conducted without doctor, nurse, or midwife; without any medicine or medical intervention of any sort; and relying only on prayer and faith in God to get through a safe delivery. Balizet is a Christian author of apocalyptic thrillers who came into her life's work when she started attending the home births of women in her Tampa community as a "spiritual midwife."
The author uses the narrative to fit her thesis that Jackson's background gave her willingness to be public with her story, "And for that, many abortion advocates are grateful." So Slate may not present the most objective piece ever, it recognizes that religion played a big role in this story.
On Jackson's blog, she refers to her sister whom she describes as evangelical.
I called my prolife evangelical Christian sister yesterday, to tell her about the whole "public abortion" thing before she saw it on the news. ... Here's what she said to me.
"Well, you know I am prolife and I'll probably cry when I get off the phone, but I love you and I'll always support you."
So what's the deal with her family now? Are they still members of a "fundamentalist cult"? Whatever the case is now, reporters should look into consider what provoked this story. And no, CNN, it's not just a story about how young people are using social media. Please.