Emily Letts, like in one in three women, got an abortion. Unlike most women who make that decision, however, Letts, a 25-year-old former actress and abortion counselor, decided to film her own first trimester surgical abortion.
In an essay on Cosmopolitan‘s site, she explains that she simply wanted to show it “wasn’t scary” and that there is such a thing as a “positive abortion story.”
But should there be such a thing as a positive abortion story?
Over the years I’ve worked as a rape crisis counselor and at a crisis center for women. I’ve held women’s hands while they’ve gone through an abortion. And while it’s not something I would choose for myself, I did my best to love and support them through what was almost universally a very hard time in their lives.
Unlike Letts who says she “knew immediately” that she’d get an abortion, the vast majority of women I worked with put an immense amount of thought and feeling into that decision. I never once saw anyone take it as lightly as Letts appears to. And as a mom myself, I find her glib, “I’ll take one abortion, please!” attitude to be both disturbing and disrespectful of women. One of the biggest fears that people on both sides of the abortion debate have is that women will cavalierly use it as a form of birth control and I think Letts might have just proved them right.
But it wasn’t her decision to have an abortion that is making her controversial, it was her decision to film it and put it out on the internet. The actual video is quite short and doesn’t show any of the business end but I’ll admit watching it still made me extremely uncomfortable.
After talking about how much awesome attention she was getting from everyone at her abortion clinic in New Jersey, she says, “I remember breathing and humming through it like I was giving birth. I know that sounds weird but to me it was as birth-like as could be. It will always be a special memory for me. I still have my sonogram, and if my apartment caught on fire, it would be the first thing I’d grab.”
Her reaction is so far from what I’ve experienced with other women that it seems to almost be farcical, as if she’s trying to prove every negative stereotype.
Letts says she was just trying to remove the stigma of abortion but I’m not sure her video had the desired effect. These are real lives and real women we are talking about and treating the decision as if it’s as simple as picking the grilled chicken for your salad does a great disservice to women.
Women should think about it before having an abortion. They should think about it a lot. I would never shame another woman for her decisions with her body and I’m not going to start now but Letts’ video didn’t make me feel empowered or proud. It also didn’t make me feel angry. It just made me feel very, very sad. This is everything that’s wrong with the way we talk about abortion.