It must have been a slow news day yesterday, because the whole world stopped for Justin Bieber’s thoughts on abortion. While driving around with a “Rolling Stone” reporter in Atlanta, sans handlers, the 16-year-old virgin told writer Vanessa Grigoriadis he believes abortion is “killing a baby” and even in the case of a pregnancy that results from rape, “everything happens for a reason.” Minds were blown. Rome fell. S**t got real.
Well, it turns out that was not Bieber‘s full quote.
In the original email blast that I and hundreds of other bloggers and journalists received yesterday, the exchange between Justin Bieber and Vanessa Grigoriadis was printed thusly:
Justin Bieber: I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s, like, killing a baby?
Rolling Stone: How about in cases of rape?
JB: Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.
Lots of reproductive rights supporters, myself included, gave Biebs the thumbs down. “I may not care about [his] opinions on abortion, but the world’s population of 11-year-old girls sure does,” I wrote.
This morning, however, The New York Observer‘s blog reports Grigoriadis tweeted that a portion of Justin Bieber’s full quote was removed during editing and clarified the pop prince’s words. The bolded portion is the line that was edited out:
“Well, I think [pregnancy resulting from rape is] really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”
I would wager the edit of that one sentence was not intended to “distort” meaning; celebrities’ quotes from interviews are condensed all the time by editors — including on The Frisky — to get to the point faster and make their statement more readable. Some people, however, may be suspicious that editors wanted to make Bieber’s quote sound more severe to generate controversy. It’s certainly possible.
In any case, Grigoriadis spoke to the gossip blog PopEater about just why she decided to ask Biebs about abortion:
“”I think that anyone who has as much sway in popular culture as Justin should be asked all questions. I agree that he does not bring up these issues in his work at the moment, but it’s possible that he will in the future, as he decides that he wants the public to know more about him.”
Fair enough. She also further clarified what Justin Beiber meant about abortion, rape and things happening “for a reason” in the context of their conversation:
“I think he meant that God has a plan. Even for the most die-hard Christian, it’s hard to justify rape as part of God’s plan, and harder to justify rape that leads to pregnancy and abortion. I think he was wrestling with that in his answer, which I found to be solid and logical. I think it is being widely misunderstood. He did not say that rape was part of God’s plan.”
I’ve heard at least one feminist blogger suggest Vanessa Grigoriadis had an “agenda” asking Bieber about abortion rights — a conspiracy theory that I think is far-fetched. Grigoriadis is a whipsmart reporter for New York, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, and she knew how to get a quote from a celebrity that would draw attention to her article and the magazine that pays her. It’s part of the job. Personally, I think she knocked it out of the park with this one because it’s become a huge story.
But let’s not let it become too huge of a story, okay? At the end of the day, the people whose opinions on abortion really matter are not pop stars but politicians. They may not have meme-inducing haircuts, but they’re the ones who have legislative power over our reproductive rights.