Emily Letts

Emily Letts / Image via phillymag.com

By now there is a good chance that you’ve seen “Emily’s Abortion Video,” a short video diary that depicts 25-year-old Emily Letts, before, during, and after she receives a first trimester surgical abortion. Posted last month on YouTube, the video has already garnered nearly one million views on that network, and has been shared widely throughout other media outlets. Ms. Letts has been notably transparent as more and more people learn of her experience and story, and she even penned an article for Cosmopolitan to further articulate her motivation for filming such a deeply personal experience.

It may come as no surprise that “Emily’s Abortion Video” has received major backlash since it went viral. Many pro-life groups and individuals are up in arms that Letts could be so open and calm about the decision to have an abortion in the first place. Since it was first posted, Letts and her video have been called “disgusting,” “despicable,” and “sickening.” She has been criticized for her selfishness, been forced to endure an onslaught of death threats, and has experienced more messages of hate and anger than she could have ever imagined.

Still, Letts, an abortion counselor at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey where she had her procedure, says that she doesn’t regret a thing. The whole reason she wanted to share her experience was to help eliminate some of the stigma surrounding abortions. She wanted to face hers head on, and to show women that having an abortion does not have to be an experience laden with guilt, shame, or fear. “Emily’s Abortion Video” is non-graphic, focuses on her face, and shows how supportive the nurses and medical professionals are of her. She hums and breathes purposefully throughout the procedure, which is surprisingly less than five minutes long.

Letts’ decision to have an abortion is one that 1 in 3 women will also make in their lifetimes. Rather than let society’s ideas about female bodies, motherhood, and abortion shame her, Letts decided to take matters into her own hands. By filming her own abortion, she wanted “to show women that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story.” Despite all of the criticism that Letts has received, many are calling her decision to share her experience “brave,” “informative,” and “important.” Her intention is to bring to light an issue that is never talked about, and rarely ever seen, in hopes of creating a more supportive and understanding culture around a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

When Margaret Sanger and other feminist activists helped to bring reproductive health issues to the forefront some 100 years ago, it certainly wasn’t well received then. Without Sanger’s dedication to women’s rights however, Planned Parenthood may never have been formed. Something about “Emily’s Abortion Video” seems like a necessary next step in creating radical social change, and it might just be the missing piece our culture needs to broaden the dialogue surrounding reproductive health.

“I knew what I was going to do what right because it was right for me and no one else,” says Emily Letts at one point in her video. I just want to share my story.”