When Emily Letts found out she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion, she had a unique idea: she decided to film her abortion procedure. As an abortion doula and abortion counselor at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, Letts realized just how scared, uninformed and guilty many women feel prior to undergoing abortion procedures.
Our society breeds this guilt. We inhale it from all directions. Even women who come to the clinic completely solid in their decision to have an abortion say they feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Even though they know 110 percent that this is the best decision for them, they pressure themselves to feel bad about it.
Instead of buying into all this shame and guilt, Letts decided to create a video about her decision, hoping to make a lasting impact on the lives of other women. While she knew of one Youtube video of a woman undergoing a nonsurgical medical abortion by taking the medication RU-486, she could not find a video of a women having a surgical abortion using local anesthetic.
First trimester surgical abortions last only a few minutes and occur by aspiration through the cervix. While they are extremely safe, involve no incisions and carry a risk of infertility of less than 1%, many women remain terrified of this type of abortion. In the end, Letts decided to undergo a surgical abortion for this very reason: to dispel misconception about the procedure.
Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won’t be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can’t carry the child at this moment.
Letts’s procedure is shot from the waist up and allows the viewer the unique opportunity to see Letts as she breaths and hums her way through her procedure. While Letts video is time lapsed — it doesn’t show the entire three to five minutes Letts spent during the actual aspiration procedure — this is likely because there wouldn’t be much to see! Probably just more breathing and humming.
There over a million videos on Youtube of surgeries, many that are complicated and cary significant risk. When such videos of abortions don’t exists this sends a signal to women that abortion is so horrific an experience it is not suitable for viewing. Even in a culture where we feel okay watching an awake man have brain surgery.
With Letts’s video she lets women know the reality of early abortion. You might be uncomfortable, you might be sad, or emotional or want outside distraction. But you won’t die or hemorrhage blood everywhere. Someone will hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be okay. And you will be okay.
In filming and releasing her abortion video Letts has taken a brave step both personally and politically. She’s opened herself up to protestors and potential ridicule and though safe and effective abortions aren’t accessible to everyone, hopefully Letts’s video will help to change the way in which we perceive abortion and help women to have positive and caring experiences. As Letts says so powerfully during her procedure, “Everyone deserves it.”