New Jersey abortion clinic counselor explains ‘Why I Filmed My Abortion’

Emily Letts knew she wasn't ready for children when she became pregnant. She decided to film her procedure to show other women that, as she puts it, there is such thing as a "positive" abortion story. (NowThis News)

 

Emily Letts took a pregnancy test on a “whim.”

She wasn’t using birth control: “Crazy, I know. I’m a sex educator, and I love talking about birth control.”

She felt a little “irresponsible and embarrassed.”

“The moment when a woman looks down and sees those two pink lines and she’s not expecting to see them, it’s like time implodes and explodes simultaneously. You’re caught in this tornado that just sucks out all the breath in your lungs. Once I caught my breath, I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion,” she wrote.

Letts, 25, an abortion counselor at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, said she had been working there about a year when she got pregnant in November. It was her first. In an essay released Monday in the online Cosmopolitan magazine, she wrote she had counseled many women before their abortions, though, she had never had one.

“I was so used to saying, ‘I’ve never had an abortion but …’” she wrote. “While I was pregnant and waiting for my procedure, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I have to use this.’”

So Letts decided to film it for all the world to see. And it went viral. The YouTube version, posted in March, had more than 800,000 views as of Thursday morning.

But she had to know that it would provoke antiabortion groups — and it did.

“It is a sad commentary on our nation that someone can be rewarded for filming an event that takes the life of an innocent unborn human being,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life Committee, said Tuesday in a statement. “We pray that in the coming years, she will understand and be able to accept the ramifications of her actions.”

And it hasn’t gone over so well with some pro-choice folks either.

 

“People have such strong opinions on abortion, but they don’t actually know what it looks like,” Letts told Fox News. “My video of my abortion is there only to tell women that they are not alone. Speak up. Tell your stories. Do it through words, through video, through pictures, through songs, whatever. You do not deserve to be alone.”

The video shows nothing below the belt. It mainly shows a series of monologues, one in which Letts says she’s not ready to have children, followed by the actual procedure.

In the video, Letts, who wrote that she was a professional actress for years, breathes and hums her way through most of the abortion. Then, telling the camera it’s about a month and a half later, she says: “I don’t feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was going to do was right — ’cause it was right for me. And no one else. I just want to share my story.”

Letts entered her video in the Abortion Care Network’s Stigma Busting competition. It won. (The Web site states winners get a cash prize and a $100 donation for an abortion fund of their choice, “in this case, Abortion Support Network in the UK and Women’s Medical Fund in Philadelphia.”)

And a link to Letts’s magazine essay was posted on the Cherry Hill Women’s Center’s Facebook page, stating: “It is part of the mission of the Cherry Hill Women’s Center to eradicate stigma surrounding pregnancy decisions and fight for the right of all people to carry out those decisions without shame, stigma or coercion. We encourage all our patients and staff to embrace themselves as loving individuals making thoughtful decisions. … This is what abortion can look like for all women.”

Letts said she chose a surgical abortion with local anesthesia.

News of the video spread via Twitter this week with the hashtag #EmilyLetts, fueling the ongoing abortion debate — and Letts’s decision to make hers public.

Someone even posted a fairly explicit parody video Wednesday on YouTube, though, it had only 750 views by Thursday morning. Letts responded on Twitter, “Love it.”

Letts wrote she expected the comments — some negative, some positive — but the purpose was to end the stigma about abortions and address women’s guilt.

“When I put it up on YouTube, pro-lifers put it on their newscasts,” she wrote. “And so I got, ‘You’re a Nazi,’ ‘You deserve to die,’ ‘You killed your baby.’ Just so much blind hatred without knowing who I am or what I’m about. … I am grateful that I can share my story and inspire other women to stop the guilt.”

Letts told Fox News she has no regrets.

“I don’t think guilt is a productive feeling. I don’t think guilt does much for us,” Letts told Fox News. “I forgave myself for not using birth control, I corrected it and I moved forward.”

After the abortion, she started using birth control, she said.

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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