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BUMP and the fatal flaw

Mary Hasson

Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a new web-based series,  “BUMP+,” serves the abortion issue up to the American public in a new way.  The 13-week series unfolds the stories of three women facing crisis pregnancies. What’s unusual about this series is that the ending is not yet written—whether the characters in BUMP+  will give birth or abort their children depends on viewer input.

The creators of BUMP maintain that they are not taking sides, just pursuing an “open, honest exploration” of abortion in hopes of uncovering a solution.  Inspired by President Obama’s Notre Dame speech, calling for a civil conversation about abortion, Catholic entrepreneur Dominic Iocco decided to try something new.  He believes that people on both sides of the issue need to understand each other better—and that stories allow us to engage issues more deeply than slogans or talking points.

BUMP is a reality-style series that unfolds the proverbial “hard cases:” an immature single woman with two kids, pregnant with a third, and living with an abusive boyfriend, the military wife finally pregnant—but by another man--while her husband soldiers in Iraq, and the nursing student with a career trajectory and two prior abortions. As the press release puts it: “The final cliffhanger is so unpredictable, even the writers and producers don't know how the series will end. From Juno and Bella to Glee and Desperate Housewives, a woman's right to choose has been explored across the media landscape. What makes BUMP+ different?  We're letting the viewers decide how our characters' stories will end. We've opened the official website to comments and invited people to share their personal stories. Our team will craft the final episodes, including the ultimate decision about each pregnancy, based on audience feedback. “

The trouble I have with this series, however, has nothing to do with how the vote turns out.  Either pro-life or pro-choice advocates could pack the comments, outnumbering the other side or providing the compelling stories that make scriptwriters take notice.  I suspect that the writers will literally split the baby—one or two of the fictitious unborn children will make it, while one or two will not. Perhaps the creative types behind the series will even portray a decision to abort as a mistake, no matter how trying the circumstances. 

My worry is that the overall format of the show---with its theme of “you decide”-- plays right into the hands of those who believe there is no truth about abortion.

After 13 weeks of dramatic, emotional engagement, a decision--either pro-abortion or pro-life-- is most likely to persuade the viewer of the most damaging fiction of all: “It was a hard decision, but she did what she felt was right.  She made the right choice for her situation.”  Who am I to judge?

And that’s the real evil stalking American culture: the highest ideal is the exercise of individual choice. Its insidious corollary is that “good” inevitably happens when I decide—or because I decide.  And the more agonized, deeply felt, or even wrenching my choice is, the more unassailable it becomes.  It’s my decision—I feel it, I own it—so it must be right for me. For the reigning relativists who dominate the media and walk the halls of Congress,  “choice” makes “right.”

Back to BUMP… the idea is brilliant—an interactive approach to engage cultural issues. But its fundamental message, I believe, is fatally flawed. The overriding “you decide” message validates the American fiction that the only “wrong” is to fail to make your own decision, sincerely and reflectively.  When it comes to solving the problem of a difficult pregnancy, the question of objective right or wrong never even enters the conversation. In the series pilot, the sincere doctor-character expresses the relativist’s creed perfectly: he reassures the military wife, poignantly indecisive and alone, that,  “We’re here to support you to make the best decision you can.” The “right thing” is for each woman to make the choice that she feels is right for her (or, put differently, that makes her feel right). 

I say, don’t play that game. Relativism is the real evil here—the fatal flaw that results in real lives being lost.  For thousands of women today—and their unborn children—abortion is not a pseudo-reality show. It’s life or death. 

And God knows, even if our nation forgets, that the choice to take the life of an innocent baby can never, ever be right.  End of story.

Topics: Abortion , Culture , Current Events , Young Women

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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October 31, 2014

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