Tweeting an abortion

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.

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  • Bob Smietana

    Carol Balizet has been connected with some other fringe religious groups in the past.

  • Colin LaVergne

    For a fuller treatment of Carol Balizet’s impact on this group, see

  • Joel

    I remember reading about the Attleboro group, but I didn’t realize Carol Balizet was connected with it. She stands out in my mind for her novel about the Tribulation, “The Seven Last Years.” Like so many Evangelical conceptions of the Tribulation, it features a pope as the Antichrist. Unlike the others, she took care to ensure that the pope in question had been elected invalidly, thereby avoiding casting the Catholic Church as Harlot of Babylon. A nice touch that most of her readers probably didn’t catch.

    It’s hard to blame the people at Slate for painting Balizet and the home-birthers as loons. I think they’re loons, too. But really, would it have killed the writer to ask at least a question or two about them of someone other than a bitter apostate? You can almost hear “Dueling Banjos” every time they’re mentioned.

    I’m sure it’s hagiography to the pro-abortion side. But to me, it just reads like one more “I’m all screwed up and it’s all because of those Jesus Freaks” blamefest.

    Anyway, this quote must have made sense to someone, but it certainly wasn’t me:
    “If what you have is a secret,” says Taft, “it can only be private when somebody has risked enough to break the secret.”

    Profound-sounding and semantically null.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Thanks for further links on Balizet. Joel, I guess I’m not a fan of the headline because you could probably paint a lot of religious backgrounds as “bizarre.” We could probably dissect the Slate piece a little more closely, but I agree that Taft’s quote doesn’t make sense.

  • Joel

    Well, Sarah, there are so many failings in the Slate report that it’s hard to know where to begin. Although Balizet’s “bizarre” ideas are described in secular terms, there is no theological background suggested for them. The writer refers to the “Pentecostal Word Faith” movement, but says absolutely nothing about what it is. Presumably it’s just a part of that murky ocean of Christian theology that her readership would neither understand nor care about. We’re given a list of modern practices and precepts that the Balizetians (Balizetites?) reject, but no clear idea of who these people are. Are they part of a particular church or network of churches, or just scattered people who have read Balizet’s ideas, or what? Are there actual clergy who espouse these theories? Certainly Balizet herself isn’t named as a pastor of any kind.

    Jackson’s reference to an “abusive and fundamentalist childhood” seems to sum up the attitude of the piece. It’s simply taken for granted that the two terms are in fact one description, that “fundamentalist” necessarily includes “abusive.” Leaving aside the amorphous meanings assigned to “fundamentalist,” it would still have helped to know what sort of abuse was involved. We aren’t told anything but that she was a part of this unexplained underworld. Apparently we’re expected to consider mere membership in it a form of abuse.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Joel, your take-down of the Slate piece is appropriate. Maybe Kathryn Joyce will find this thread. I don’t really to Slate for objective religion reporting since they tend to come from a specific viewpoint. I was hoping to highlight that there is more to the story than “Woman tweets abortion” and Slate touched on it. Your points are important, though, and something every journalist should consider.

  • MAC

    “Angie the Anti-theist,”

    I give her props for being honest about her opinion of God. Some “atheists” are more preoccupied with God than I am.