Simon Parke: From hero to zero

01 July 2009

IT WAS a blog read by more than a million people; and moved towards a terrific and tragic climax.

Beccah Beushausen is a 26-year-old social worker from Chicago, who recently posted a blog chronicling her pregnancy. This would not have been of particular note, but for one fact: the baby she carried had been dia­gnosed as terminally ill, and was given only a few weeks to live after birth. Yet Ms Beushausen had decided to go through with it; she was going to carry April Rose for the full term.

The battle over abortion rights rages with particular intensity in the United States. Only in May, George Tiller, a doctor from Kansas, was gunned down in his church. He was one of the few doctors still willing to perform late-term abor­tions, if the mother’s life was reck­oned to be at risk. In the demonising climate of polarised opinion, his Christian faith was no protection for someone deemed “pro-abortion”.

It was in this climate that Ms Beushausen’s blog struck such a chord. Many right-to-life advocates found in her a hero.

The movingly written blog was peppered with biblical quotes and Christian music, and was quickly picked up on by Christian sites, leading to a readership of more than a million. The birth itself was des­cribed online by a friend: “Beccah is pushing. April is doing well so far, and will be here soon. Lord, be near.” Followed by a jubilant: “April is here! Praise Jesus!”

And then the shocking revelation: the whole thing was fiction. There was no pregnancy or terminally ill April Rose. Ms Beushausen’s lies were exposed when someone recognised the make of doll used in the fake “birth pictures” on the site.

Response has ranged from fury to sympathy. Ms Beushausen her­self is remorseful: “I lied to a com­munity of people whose only interest was to support me, and that is wrong, and for that I am sorrier than you could know.” She said she lied because she was still dealing with the un­resolved pain of losing a baby a few years back. “Forgive me, and under­stand on some level that I am a broken woman.”

Like prejudice, heroes are fun to have; but not generally a good idea. Either they let us down, and we hate them with particular venom; or we spend our lives distorting reality in any way necessary to keep them on a pedestal. And, of course, as soon as someone says, “He/she can do no wrong in my eyes,” then you know that, sadly, there are others who can do no right in their eyes.

For Rachel Myers of Tennessee, however, it is not about heroes or zeroes. She sold T-shirts to raise money, sending hundreds of dollars to Ms Beushausen — and has no regrets. As she says: “She’s someone who needed love and attention, which we gave her.”

Shelf Life, by Simon Parke, is pub­lished by Rider, £7.99 (£7.20); 978-1-84604-156-3

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