Washington Babylon — September 18, 2009, 8:23 am

Underage Prostitution, Gotcha Journalism, and the Ethics of the Acorn Sting

I’ve always admired the work of ACORN and thought right-wing attacks on the group bordered on the hysterical, but that was a terrific undercover sting mounted by the two young conservatives. Sorry, but it’s a serious matter when at least three different ACORN offices, in Washington, Baltimore, and New York, offer to help a 25-year-old “pimp” wearing a derby hat and chinchilla shoulder throw and his “prostitute” lie about their business in order to buy a home. And even more so when the preposterously dressed duo suggested that they’d be bringing in underage girls from Central America to work at their brothel.

ACORN has said that its offices in four cities declined to take the bait. Terrific, that means that only three out of seven ACORN offices were willing to commit fraud to help people set up a brothel.

Liberals have been attacking the videos by saying that the two videomakers, James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles, are right-wing advocates. Who cares? O’Keefe and Giles got some important things wrong, like the amount of federal money received by ACORN, but there’s no denying the central claims and power of their work. Nor does it matter that the case is now being picked up and exploited by Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, which in no way undermines the journalists’ work.

Elsewhere you hear that this is only the kind of work trained professionals in the mainstream media should do. Except of course no one in the mainstream media would have done the story. The most idiotic defense came from Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, as reported in the New York Times. Borosage, said the newspaper, described the tactics used against Acorn as “McCarthyite,” adding, “This is dangerous stuff. I don’t think progressives will sit back and let this gain momentum.”

So it seems that progressives will sit back and politely watch Obama gut his own health care reform bill, and also sit back and say very little about him inheriting the Bush strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, they have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and here it is: If you want to open up a whorehouse for underage immigrant girls, we will oppose anyone trying to stop ACORN from helping you out.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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