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Tweeting trivializes some serious issues

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010

This is not an easy story to tell. Last month, a 27-year-old Tampa woman, Angie Jackson, found out she was four weeks pregnant. Her IUD had failed.

So Jackson, the mother of a 4-year-old with special needs, chose to terminate the pregnancy - not uncommon in a country where, by some estimates, 40 percent of women have made the same decision.

But Jackson was different. Wanting to "demystify abortion," she live-tweeted her experience with RU-486, the so-called abortion pill.

Cramps are getting a bit more persistent . . . Definitely bleeding now . . . Ugh.

She also blogged and posted a video of herself on YouTube explaining why she did what she did.

"For a variety of reasons including very high health risks for me," she says, looking straight at the camera, "I'm having an abortion." She adds, several times, that it's "not that bad - not that scary."

Her decision to go public has brought her more attention that she expected. She told ABC News - disingenuously for someone so well-versed in new media - that she was "astonished" at the reaction and wasn't "trying to ignite a culture war . . . just offering one person's personal experience and true story."

Why post it, tweet it and YouTube it if not for attention? After all, personal experiences feed culture wars.

In much the same way another woman's glib tweets about her mid-meeting miscarriage stirred a media frenzy last year, Jackson's story has prompted praise, criticism and death threats.

One angry tweet: "Scorpion mothers will grab one of their children from their backs and eat if she gets hungry. So u're @ the same level?"

And an accolade: ". . . (T)here is something reassuring about how she matter-of-factly walks us, and herself, through the whole process. It's as though she's live-tweeting the aftermath of routine medical procedure, like a wisdom tooth extraction."

But an abortion is not a routine medical procedure. Just ask women who have run gauntlets of clinic protesters or risked rejection by their partners - or excommunication by their church - to get one.

And how much soul-searching goes into a wisdom-tooth extraction? To compare the two is to ignore the complex emotions that often accompany abortion. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is something unsettling about simplifying what for most women is a difficult and complicated decision. You don't "demystify" by joking, as Jackson did, about a boyfriend vacuuming out the fetus. That simply horrifies and repels.

In a debate that is perhaps the most divisive of our times, you want to hear from someone who is thoughtful and introspective, someone who might enlighten you about her myriad motivations and worries. That's not Jackson. Sometimes in-your-face, often flippant, she turns the most personal of experiences into public exhibitionism. Sadly, I don't think that's what she intended.

• Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. She can be reached at aveciana@MiamiHerald.com.



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