Since the launch of crowdfunding websites people have donated money to some pretty weird causes. But a recently launched online funding campaign isn't just odd, it presents a moral dilemma. There's a website called prolifeantiwoman.com where an anonymous woman claims that she is seven weeks pregnant and planning to have an abortion, but is giving pro-lifers the chance to stop it – by donating $1 million in 72 hours. The title is 'How much would you pay to stop an abortion?'
The 26-year-old woman describes herself as a graduate student. She says she has an abortion booked on July 10, and will enable the site to take donations from July 7. If she raises the $1 million, she vows to have the baby, put it up for adoption and put the money in a trust fund for the child.
Though the trust fund suggests benevolence, this site is blackmail, plain and simple. A human life is priceless, and although there are plenty of people who do try to put a price on it – they are usually kidnappers holding others to ransom.
The time-frame she has given is a protest against what she describes as "extremely restrictive abortion laws" which require women to wait 72 hours after consultation with a doctor to have an abortion. This waiting time is currently required in Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and North Carolina, although many other states require a woman to wait 24 hours after the initial consultation.
The fuel for her cause is a reaction to the "backward direction this country is headed in terms of its treatment of women" which she blames on "the influence of the religious right disguised as the pro-life movement."
She is baiting the 157 million Americans who identify as pro-life, and no doubt some will feel compelled to give. But she hopes that the campaign will fail, and in so doing she will demonstrate that "The pro-life movement cares very little about saving lives and far more about controlling women by minimizing their choices in a wide variety of ways not the least of which is readily available reproductive health care."
Almost regardless of your feelings about abortion, this website can be criticised. It's morally questionable to pay someone who is blackmailing you – as she dangles the threat of ending her pregnancy up as a political bargaining chip. (In a practical sense, it would also be foolish to donate money on an anonymous website without credentials or any kind of guarantee.) And more than that, I can think of several better ways of showing you care about unborn children than donating to a woman ranting online.
But before entirely dismissing her argument, perhaps it is worth dwelling a moment on where it stems from. Real or fake, this website is a political stunt designed to point the finger at the Christian Right and accuses the pro-life movement of being "anti-women". Here there is perhaps some truth.
Some ardent pro-life supporters do neglect the women whose bodies they are talking about and brush away their very real concerns. Those picketing outside abortion clinics and condemning the women who enter are not extending the love and support that is required when making a difficult decision. Shame is never a good motivator for anything (as this website also demonstrates). Certainly for those who are pro-life, it should be possible to value both the mother and the baby – and demonstrate that concern beyond any doubt.
But the callous way this women is theoretically surrendering her right to choose to the masses is also an affront to the women who choose to have an abortion but don't necessarily find it an easy decision. To assume that the religious right are out to get women's rights because they hate women completely overlooks the religious convictions underpinning their stance on abortion. Life is so much more complicated than labels – whether we identify as pro-life or pro-choice, there must be room for compassion. Life is priceless, but how much should we pay this woman? Absolutely nothing.