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Woman Who Filmed Her Own Abortion: 'We Need to Talk, Not Apologize'

Emily Letts discusses her abortion experience and why empathy is the key to the future of reproductive rights.

Photo Credit: screenshot


Last week, Emily Letts changed the conversation about breaking the stigma associated with abortion and reproductive rights when she became the first person known to film her own surgical abortion. The YouTube video she made has since gone viral, and become the source of backlash. Letts spoke with AlterNet about her abortion experience and why empathy is the key to the future of reproductive rights. 

When Emily Letts filmed her abortion, she did it at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, where she works as an abortion counselor. The center is located less than a quarter mile away from Options Pregnancy Care Center, a crisis pregnancy center listed as a resource on the New Jersey Right to Life website. Chapel Avenue separates the short walk between the centers but despite their proximity, what happens in these buildings and what they stand for are light years apart.

The pro-life community has built its entire reputation on perpetuating misinformation about abortion and reproductive healthcare in the name of “life” and “women’s safety,” seemingly oblivious to the contradiction that the lives impacted by such body politics are those of the women. They’ve misled the public with junk science, character assassinations and the application of sweeping generalities to the procedure that erases the spectrum of emotions and reflections people feel when planning their reproductive future. When they accuse providers, supporters and people who get an abortion of murder and a lack of moral scruples, it is like watching a black and white movie. We see two shades, yet it was filmed in color. Letts' video, consequently, helped add context to the procedure.

“I just want to share my story,” Letts said in her video, a sentiment she shared in an interview with AlterNet, adding that one of the main reasons she put it online was to help other women share their stories.

“It’s like a call to arms to support other women and their stories and it’s happening,” she said. “You tell a woman that she’s safe and you’re not going to judge her, and the floodgates will open.”

When Letts learned she was pregnant, she admits she was lucky enough to have a strong support system that made her abortion a positive experience, especially because she able to decide who would be in the room during the procedure.

“I felt extremely safe and extremely supported by all the people in there,” Letts said. “They were holding my hand and whispering that I was strong and brave.”

During the video, Letts is heard humming during the procedure, a practice she said allowed her to achieve “a safe and quiet place” in her mind while experiencing uterine discomfort. Despite the slight pain associated with the procedure, Letts recalls that “this experience was very empowering to me” but recognizes that not every woman has a support system that can create a positive experience like the one she had.

“I could never imagine doing this alone and feeling like I needed to keep it a secret,” she said. “I told everyone and wanted to invite them into my life and invite them into this big, huge decision.”

Although her abortion is in the past, Letts said she still watches the video which is like “looking into a glass ball and seeing your past and seeing it through my memory. It still feels so surreal and profound.”

The Backlash of Sharing Abortion Stories

The importance of having conversations about abortion and reproductive healthcare is something that neither the pro-life or pro-choice community minimizes. The difference between the camps is that while anti-choice advocates pepper their dialogue with respectability policing and religious damnation, the pro-choice community understands that having more conversations involving personal stories will abate the stigma, shame and guilt associated with it when people learn that no experience is the same and that every choice has its own story. 

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