Did a feminist abort her baby because it was a boy?

By BBC Trending
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The internet was shocked by an feminist who says she aborted her baby because it was a boy. But was she for real?

One woman's account of her abortion caused a huge stir online this week. In a blog post published on a site called Injustice Stories, a writer who remains anonymous but calls herself "Lana" explains how she decided to terminate her pregnancy in the second trimester after discovering she was having a boy. She describes herself as a feminist and says she "couldn't bring another monster" - a man - "into the world."

The catalyst for her decision, Lana says, was an altercation she had on a flight. She wrote that she had been flying business class to San Francisco to take part in an Occupy Wall Street rally, when "an extremely well dressed man" whispered something offensive into her ear, leading her to scream "ASSAULT!" She went on to say that a male flight attendant failed to help her and that she felt "verbally and emotionally raped". This incident consolidated her view that she could "no longer depend on men to be an ally of the cause" and ultimately led her to abort her baby boy "fairly late" in her pregnancy. "I was aware there were certain risks, but it went off without a hitch," she writes.

The blog post went viral and was reported on by several mainstream newsoutlets (although the Huffington Post subsequently added a note saying "this may be a hoax"). The story was also widely repeated on conservative blogs and anti-abortion websites. Many were shocked at Lana's apparent actions: in comments, some readers said they "almost threw up" while others were "disturbed by this warped-minded monster." Sex-selective abortion is illegal in several countries, including the UK.

But are "Lana" and the story of her termination real? BBC Trending has not been able to verify her story or her identity. In fact, we've been trying to reach her for days. We went through the site's administrator, a man who only identified himself as "Robert." Robert told us Lana was travelling in India without a mobile phone and with limited internet access. Eventually we did manage to speak to her briefly via Skype, however the call was cut off the instant we asked our first question. Since then, neither Lana nor Robert have responded to repeated attempts to contact them.

Meanwhile others online picked up on unexplained inconsistencies in Lana's story. The urban legends debunkers at Snopes.com called the story "probably false" and says it was "likely a troll for page views". Feminist blog Jezebel went further and called it a "very, very fake story", pointing out that a late-term abortion is rarely a simple process (it can involve a general anaesthetic, for instance).

The critics say she never mentions how she got pregnant or by whom (a man, presumably), and that it's unclear why anyone would fly business class to anti-capitalist demonstration. Then there is the site, Injustice Stories. Visitors to the site were only able to read the first two paragraphs of Lana's story - to read the rest, they had to like the site on Facebook or Tweet about it. Nearly 10,000 people did - as we did, to read to the end of the post - and that mechanism probably made the story spread faster than it otherwise would have. "The virality of this story is sort of a nice reminder about confirmation bias: when something fits our preferred narrative just a little too snugly, it's probably time for scepticism," wrote Jezebel's Anna Merlan.

Blog by Anne-Marie Tomchak and Mike Wendling

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