(Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Emily Letts)
A New Jersey abortion activist who recently filmed her abortion procedure said she did so to show women that "there is such thing as a positive abortion story," adding that to her the procedure felt "as birth-like as it could be."
Emily Letts, a 25-year-old counselor at the Cherry Hill Women's Center in New Jersey, uploaded the video of her abortion procedure to YouTube in March, and Cosmopolitan magazine published an article by Letts, retelling her experience, on May 5.
In the Cosmopolitan article, Letts explained that last November, she unexpectedly became pregnant, and had no long-time partner. Letts writes that after recovering from the shock of realizing she was pregnant, "I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion. I knew I wasn't ready to take care of a child. The guy wasn't involved in my decision."
The 25-year-old former professional actress then contacted her employer, Cherry Hill Women's Center, to schedule an abortion. She also decided to film the procedure, saying that she decided to do so to "inspire other women to stop the guilt" that comes with having an abortion.
"We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like," Letts writes on the magazine's website. "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 one 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."
Letts added that although she did receive negative feedback online for the video, "every time I watch the video, I love it. I love how positive it is. I think that there are just no positive abortion stories on video for everyone to see. But mine is."
She also recalled her experience, saying it was "as birth-like as it could be. It will always be a special memory for me. I still have my sonogram, and if my apartment were to catch fire, it would be the first thing I'd grab."
The short, non-graphic 3:18 video shows Letts talking to the camera, then going through with the procedure at the women's center. Letts opted for the surgical procedure that provided only local anesthesia and no IV sedation because she wanted to do the procedure "women were most afraid of." The camera focuses on the top half of Letts' body, and shows her humming and breathing deeply with her eyes closed as the procedure is completed.
At the end of the video, Letts offers an update on her feelings over a month after her abortion. She says "I don't feel like a bad person. I don't feel sad [...] I knew that what I was going to do was right - it was right for me and for no one else."
Letts entered her video in the Abortion Care Network's "Stigma Busting" video contest in March, and won.
Letts' YouTube video and article for Cosmopolitan magazine have received massive criticism from both the pro-life and pro-choice community, with some accusing the 25-year-old of downplaying the seriousness of a life-ending procedure.
The pro-life group New Jersey Right to Life released a statement Tuesday saying "it's truly sad that an aspiring actress would use this venue" to achieve possible fame.
"Ending a pregnancy through the violence of abortion is not compassionate and is never safe for the defenseless baby who is torn to bits in his or her mother's womb," said the group's executive director Marie Tasy, according to NBC New York.
A writer for the U.K.-based website NeonNettle wrote that although she considers herself to be "pro-choice," she still found Letts' "cavalier attitude" to be disturbing.
"We are certainly pro-choice but her cavalier attitude and attempt to claim her fifteen minutes [of fame] had us all astounded," wrote Marnie Wayne for NeonNettle. "Abortion is not something to be taken lightly or glorified. It is for most women a heavy decision. Emily looks forward to her abortion and enjoys the process as if she were nipping in for a manicure."
Breitbart's William Bigelow argued that a ThinkProgress article describing Letts' video shows no regard for the welfare of the baby or the opinion of the child's father. "Of course, it wasn't so pain-free and safe for the baby, but there is no mention of the baby in the entire article – or, for that matter, his or her father."
Bigelow highlights Letts' comment in her video when she says her decision to have an abortion was right for herself, "and for no one else." Bigelow quips that this comment was a "Freudian slip if there ever was one."
Anne Scheidler, vice president of the Pro Life Action League, told the New York Daily News that she found Letts' decision and her film to be very sad. "She's certainly ignoring the life she just destroyed in an effort to have an experience and show how positive a thing it is," she told The News. "You can't end someone's life like that."
Scheidler added that she hopes "the day will come when she realizes encouraging other women to blithely kill their children without any remorse at all is an irresponsible, juvenile and immature thing to do."