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This woman filmed and shared her own abortion—here’s why

"I want to show women that there is such thing as a positive abortion story."


EJ Dickson


Posted on May 6, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 8:57 am CDT

Emily Letts, 25, is a patient advocate at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey. She regularly counsels women seeking abortions, although she’d never been pregnant or had an abortion herself.

“Patients at the clinic always ask me if I can relate to them—have I had an abortion? Do I have kids?” Letts recently wrote in Cosmopolitan. “I was so used to saying, ‘I’ve never had an abortion but…’”

That changed, however, last November, when Letts found out she was pregnant. “I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion,” she writes. “I wasn’t ready to take care of a child.”

After booking an appointment for a procedure at the clinic where she worked, she decided to document her abortion on camera and post it on YouTube, as a way to destigmatize the process for other women. (Video is totally SFW and not remotely graphic).

“I want to share my story,” Letts says in the three-minute video, which is mostly shot from her perspective during the surgical procedure. “I want to show women that there is such thing as a positive abortion story.” After Letts posted the video on her Facebook page, it went viral, garnering more than 50,000 views on YouTube.

Letts is not the first to document her abortion on social media. In 2010, Angie Jackson live-tweeted her medical abortion, which involves taking the pill RU486 to induce termination. Jackson live-tweeted the procedure not as a publicity stunt, but as a way to “demystify abortion… so that other women know, ‘Hey, this is not nearly as terrifying as I had worked myself up thinking it was,’” she explained in a video on her YouTube channel.

Following her decision to live-tweet her abortion, Jackson drew ire from pro-life activists, a few of whom sent her death threats. After the video of her own abortion went viral, Letts also received hate mail and death threats, as well as slightly more measured criticism from conservative publications like the Daily Caller, which referred to Letts’ lack of visible emotion following her abortion as “disturbing.” (In the video, Letts breathes and hums to herself during her abortion, “like I was giving birth. I know that sounds weird, but to me, this was as birth-like as it could be. It will always be a special memory for me,” she writes).

Of course, the Daily Caller’s critique that Letts is cold and unemotional after her abortion is ultimately moot, because that’s exactly why she made the video in the first place: to prove to other women that abortion doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal, that it doesn’t have to result in crushing guilt and emotional distress, and that it can be a totally valueless—nay, even positive—experience for women. 

Which is not to say that Letts believes every woman who has an abortion must feel the same way she did about hers. “I know there are women who feel great remorse. I have seen the tears. Grieving is an important part of a woman’s process,” she writes.

But in a society that “breeds this guilt” over women having control over their own bodies, she wants to show that it’s OK for women to not feel guilty, or guilty for not feeling guilty, about having an abortion. “I am grateful that I can share my story and inspire other women to stop the guilt,” she writes.

H/T Cosmopolitan | Screengrab via Emily Letts/YouTube

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*First Published: May 6, 2014, 3:32 pm CDT