Emily Letts is an abortion counselor who found herself facing the same difficult decision as the women she counsels: she found out that she was pregnant, and she knew she would have an abortion. But she did something else too: she made a video of her procedure, and shared it with the world on YouTube:
The moment I saw Letts’s video, I knew she woud face an endless parade of misplaced anger, hatred, and even death threats. I was right. Any Google search for the story will show as much. Anti-choice bloggers and pundits have accused Letts of being a monster, being mentally ill, or even faking the entire procedure.
This response from the radical right raises some big questions. For one thing, consider some classic anti-choice tactics. What anti-choice protest or event would be complete without a barrage of massively blown-up photos of mutilated fetuses? This is just one of many classic anti-choice attempts to sway people on the issue of abortion. When criticized for this tactic, proponents of it often give the same response: they are trying to show people what an abortion is.
So how is what Emily Letts did less justifiable? Letts’s only desire was to showcase the other side of the equation. While every woman’s story regarding abortion is going to be unique, Letts wanted to show that, despite what anti-choice politicians claim, it is possible for women to have positive abortion experiences. Other advocates like Gloria Steinem have taught us as much in the past, but never before has anyone showcased their own experience in such a public manner.
That’s what makes what Letts did so crucial. She has provided a much-needed voice to women who live in the shadows, who cannot stand up the same way that she did because of abortion stigma. Letts did what anti-choice activists have claimed to be doing for years: she showed what an abortion actually looks like.
And that is what I think lies at the root of all the hatred Letts has received. She had the audacity to suggest with her video that the narrative on the extreme right isn’t the only narrative about abortion.
For that, she’ll face widespread vitriol for what she had the bravery to do. But in the long term, she will be a hero for the pro-choice movement, and a representative for countless women who have been silenced by abortion stigma, and she may even inspire others to speak out too.