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Miscarriage of propriety

For those whose lives revolve primarily around real people in real time and real space, hurry, go hide.

Here's what you missed in the social networking universe the past few days: the twittered miscarriage.

The banality of twittery just out-twitted itself.

Yes, the tweet that gave even the virtual world pause came from one Penelope Trunk, 42-year-old CEO of a blog called "Brazen Careerist," where women can find advice about balancing work and family.

Trunk tweeted while in a board meeting that she was having a miscarriage - and how great is that? Beats the abortion she was planning to have, which would have meant missing two days of work since she would have had to go all the way to Chicago. Apparently, there's a waiting list in Wisconsin where Trunk lives.

Her tweet, as tweets must be, was succinct:

"I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a f---up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin."

Where, oh, where is Flannery O'Connor when we need her? If she were still roaming around Milledgeville, we can be fairly certain she wouldn't be tweeting. But, one might hope that O'Connor would put pen to paper and expose today's sideshow for what it is. Once asked why the grotesque is so alive in the South, the author said it's because Southerners can still recognize a freak.

Is there anything much more grotesque or freakish than a woman essentially celebrating her miscarriage in a public venue? Or, as another blogger phrased the question: "Tweeting Your Miscarriage or Abortion: Good for Women?"

It is somewhat reassuring that many of those responding were less-than-approving, if short on condemnation. There seems to be a reluctance among young social networkers to be judgmental. So parental. As in, it's not my thing, but to each her own. TMI (too much information) was a common remark. Many correctly observed that tweeting, given its 140-character limit, trivializes something as serious as miscarriage or abortion.

In an interview with CNN's Rick Sanchez, Trunk demurred. Like it or not, abortion is a right, she said, and women should feel comfortable talking about it. Her tweet, to the extent that it is now driving a conversation about how some states are trying to limit abortion, constitutes a public service announcement, she said.

Perhaps some women do need more information about miscarriage, though it seems probable that those following twitters and blogs know how to mine the Internet for information. Or, you know, they could talk to their doctor/mother/grandmother/aunt. Pick up the phone?

In conversation with a real person, rather than speaking to oneself in the virtual mirror, one might hear about the loss and grief many women and couples experience following miscarriage. When a happily pregnant woman loses her pregnancy, you can be sure she has lost her baby. Casting that painful episode as of no greater consequence than missing a lunch date should repel any beating heart.

One might wish that Trunk were an anomaly, but one would be disappointed. To those for whom abortion is a correction, miscarriage is just a messier month. When Sanchez asked, "Do you have no shame?" Trunk replied: "Why are you asking?"

"Well," as George Will would say.

Women certainly needn't feel shame for a miscarriage. Abortion, which is in an entirely different category, deserves a different conversation. It's worth noting for the sake of irony, however, that the principal argument for abortion was privacy.

Whither that?

Regardless of one's moral position, it can't be convincingly argued that abortion and miscarriage are mere medical conditions like any other, as Trunk asserts. They both usually involve medical procedures, but there's a life force at work that no woman will deny when childbirth is her aim.

Grappling with that force, its absence or overbearance, has prompted men and women through soul-searching centuries to find just the right words to exalt or rue the incomprehensible. That's why tweeting a miscarriage is so offensive. It's too little for too much.

A longer, more-reflective article examining the moral and legal pitfalls of a woman navigating miscarriage while at work might have been a valuable contribution to a necessary discussion. A teachable moment, if we must.

Instead, Trunk reduced the entire argument to an ineffable instant of adolescent prurience, trivializing not only the miscarriage, but what little remains of our humanity. On a higher note, as Trunk noted on her blog, she did have a good hair day on CNN.

And you say there's no God.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com.