Sunday, February 21, 2010

Choice approached as a social experiment: Bump+

The concept of the new interactive internet show, Bump+, is certainly an interesting one. It is a self-proclaimed social experiment in which three supposedly pregnant women are followed for several weeks during the process of making a decision about what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Online viewers are invited to discuss each 5-ish minute episode and share their personal stories of unplanned pregnancies and reproductive choice. As the season progresses, episodes are crafted according to viewers, whose comments and stories will ultimately lead to a decision for each woman of whether to carry the pregnancy to term or terminate it.

Yellow Line Studios, the producing agency of the show, states that the purpose of Bump+ is to provoke a more open and productive dialogue around abortion in the hopes that "story can succeed where nearly four decades of angry rhetoric and political posturing have failed." While I am more than supportive of a mission to improve the discourse around reproductive rights, I have doubts about the capacity of this show to constructively promote discussion. I see that the show encourages viewers to put themselves in the shoes of women facing unplanned pregnancies in order to understand the complexity of factors such women contend with when trying to make a choice. However, I fear that even hypothetically placing a woman's reproductive choice in the hands of people other than the woman herself inherently undermines the concept of choice. Furthermore, the remarkably unrepresentative cross-section of pregnant women featured - three young white women in strenuous relationships - paints a dangerously specific picture of who faces unplanned pregnancies. This picture's expediency in galvanizing the public's sympathy could be at the expense of the many women who do not fit these cookie cutter models.

Will the dialogue inspired by this experiment contribute to a more (appropriately) nuanced understanding of the importance of reproductive freedom? Or will it instead detract from the ability of bystanders to respect the decisions that each individual woman, regardless of her circumstances, makes for herself? The answers to these questions are not readily apparent.

Of course, this is likely the point.

In any case, Bump+ merits a look from any and all interested parties. Conversation encouraged.

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