Emily Letts is just a twenty-something lady who accidentally got pregnant and became one of the third of American women who have an abortion. But Letts is also an abortion counselor, and she decided she wanted to use her own procedure to help demystify the experience for others. Over at Cosmo, she explains how she was inspired by Angie Jackson, who filmed herself having a medical abortion a few years ago.
I searched the Internet, and I couldn’t find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman’s experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. 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.
There are three options for a first-trimester abortion: medical abortion, which is the pill; a surgical abortion with IV sedation, where you’re asleep through the whole thing; and a surgical abortion with local anesthesia during which you’re awake. Women are most terrified of being awake.
I could have taken the pill, but I wanted to do the one that women were most afraid of. I wanted to show it wasn’t scary — and that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story. It’s my story.
This is such an important, useful intervention. I’ve written lots before about how telling abortion stories helps break the culture of stigma around the issue and show that there is no single abortion story — just a wide range of very personal experiences, including those as positive as Letts’. And I know from my own experience as someone who’s stared down those two pink lines that one of the most immediate, concrete consequences of that silence is that you just don’t have a very clear idea of what happens next — not in some huge “Will my soul burn in hellfire forevermore?” kinda way (as you might imagine, that personally wasn’t one of my biggest concerns) but in a very practical, nuts-and-bolts kinda way. “What will the actual procedure be like for me?”
These days, when you can find YouTube videos of someone doing just about everything you can imagine (and some things that you’d rather not), it’s a testament to the deep stigma that remains around abortion that Letts’ video is such an anomaly. Many thanks to her for putting her story out there and helping to fight it.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.