A suburban "mother-to-be" has infuriated the right-to-life community in America by admitting a blog she had written for more than two months tracking her pregnancy with a child diagnosed with a terminal disease was nothing more than a fantasy, albeit one that had attracted an online audience of a million or more.
Beccah Beushausen, a 26-year-old social worker from the outskirts of Chicago, almost unwittingly hit a nerve in a country where the battle over abortion rights still rages.
Last month, a doctor in Kansas, George Tiller, was gunned down while serving as an usher in church. Mr Tiller was one of only a small number of doctors in the United States willing to perform late-term terminations in circumstances where the mother's life may be at risk. Even the most fervent of pro-life groups condemned the killing of Mr Tiller and reiterated their opposition to violence.
In Ms Beushausen, throngs of conservative Christians and right-to-life advocates thought they had found a living symbol of their deepest-felt beliefs: a woman who was committed to bringing to term a pregnancy she knew would give her a child – April-Rose – who was destined to live perhaps only weeks, days or even hours.
The blog, a well-written and heart-rending account of her pregnancy that was peppered with Biblical quotes and featured a Christian music track, took off in ways she now says she had not expected. Other mainstream Christian websites, many dedicated to the right-to-life cause, began channelling their readers to it. Fans of the blog began sending gifts – pairs of booties, blankets, hair bows, even money – to Ms Beushausen, who online called herself only "B".
The entry describing April-Rose's delivery informed the blog audience that the child had died hours after delivery, as her mother had feared. But "B"– she sometimes also referred to herself simply as "April's Mom" – did manage to post a picture of herself holding the infant swaddled in blankets. By then a cyber-celebrity in the world of anti-abortion activists, Ms Beushausen's post on that day lit up with nearly one million hits.
However, in her determination to sustain the illusion, Ms Beushausen had posed for the photograph not with a baby, but a plastic doll.
One reader spotted the deception and word of the deceit quickly spread. Even though Ms Beushausen moved quickly to take down the website and accounts on Twitter and Facebook, she was quickly identified.
The response among her legion of followers has ranged from fury to sympathy. For her part, Ms Beushausen acknowledged the fraud to her local newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, last weekend, and put up a last post offering her apologies. She has revealed that while the entire story was made up – the pregnancy never happened – she was using the blog in part to deal with the real sadness of having lost a baby boy four years before.
"I lied to a community of people whose only intention was to support me through this time and that is wrong, and for that I am sorrier than you could know," she said in the final post last Sunday, adding that she actually had lost babies "more than once" and had lied because she was "dealing with unresolved pain".
Ms Beushausen has said that the gifts she received have now been given to charity. "I don't feel the need to exploit either the Christian community or the sanctity of human life any further," she went on. "Forgive me and understand on some level that I am a broken woman.
"I do understand why people are mad, and so does she," Anna Beushausen, her sister, acknowledged this week. "I see pieces of her life in there. She is so remorseful, and she is in immense pain."
One of the first to become suspicious of the events described on the site – littleoneapril.blogspot.com – was Elizabeth Russell, a dollmaker from upstate New York. "I have that exact doll in my house," she said. "As soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was a scam." She then started a counter-blog to expose the fabrication. For her trouble, she was bombarded with hate mail.
Jennifer McKinney of Minnesota, who has written her own blogs about a difficult pregnancy, is not impressed by the belated mea culpa. "To be honest, I think she is far from recognising the true gravity of the situation," she said.
But Raechal Myers of Tennessee, who sold T-shirts to raise money for Ms Beusheusen and sent her hundreds of dollars has no regrets. "She's someone who needed love and attention," she says, "which we gave her".
Beccah Beushausen's baby blog
"Everything that has happened so far seems to be setting the stage, so to speak, for a miracle. I am carrying April, still. Not knowing what will happen next. I have another appointment on Thursday and that one will hopefully bring concrete answers. Though, as much as I say I want them, I don't think I will want them when they come.
I have been completely humbled to get emails, comments, prayer requests, etc. Humbled that God is using me and April to bring Him glory."
The 'birth' (described by a friend, 'Rachael')
"B is having frequent contractions now and is up and moving around. Active labour is only just beginning and B has a lot more work to do before April comes.
B is pushing. April is doing well so far and will be here soon. Lord, be near.
April is here! Praise Jesus!"Reuse content