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The Emily Letts abortion video shows that pro-choicers are losing the plot

7 May 2014

12:01 PM

7 May 2014

12:01 PM

Are the advocates of abortion going mad? Look at Emily Letts, a 25-year-old abortion counsellor, who decided to film her own ‘procedure’ to show what a wonderful life-affirming experience getting rid of your unwanted pregnancy can be. Cosmopolitan magazine has published the film online along with an article by Letts, who says ‘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.”

Another woman, calling herself Angie AntiTheist, had produced a much-watched video of herself having a chemical abortion; Letts decided to go for the more visceral surgical option. “I could have taken the pill,” she says, “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.”

Emily is positive, no doubt about that. “I remember breathing and humming through it like I was giving birth,’ she says, recalling the op. ‘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. I still have my sonogram, and if my apartment were to catch fire, it would be the first thing I’d grab.”

She’s right: it does sound weird. And creepy. An abortion is in most respects the opposite of a birth. Yes, they both involve pain and a physical separation of woman from child. But one is about ‘termination’. The other is about a new life coming into the world. No amount of spin can change that. You might cheer the idea that women are no longer slaves to their sexual organs, that their lives do not have to change course because of one sexual encounter, but you cannot reasonably pretend that the act of abortion is anything other than grim. To cast abortion and childbirth in the same ‘positive’ light is not just bizarre, it is demented.

Surely the sane response, even if you think abortion should be legal and freely available, would be to call this a step too far? Yet pro-choicers have embraced the film as something important and good. It has won The Abortion Care Network’s “Stigma Busting” award, apparently, and self-styled progressives are applauding Letts’s bravery.

It’s tempting to dismiss the whole story as click-bait. Cosmo is keen to say that the video is “non-graphic” — the implication being that, while the pro-lifers like to send around horrifying pictures of mangled foetuses, they are reasonable and sensitive about the subject. But can they honestly say that, by posting a film a woman enjoying her abortion, they did not hope to generate a fair bit of online controversy and web traffic? You could also say that Ms Letts, far from being a heroine for women’s rights, is just another publicity mad young person who’ll do anything to be looked at online.

Perhaps something bigger is happening here, though. The pro-choice side seems to be slowly losing the argument and they are freaking out about it. Spain is reversing its liberal abortion laws and British feminists are outraged because not enough people here are outraged. In fact, polls suggest that people, especially women, are increasingly uncomfortable with the number and legal status of abortions in this country. The old pro-choice chestnut that ‘no woman takes the decision to abort a child lightly’ sounds facile in a world in which millions of foetuses are snuffed out each year and more and more women have ‘repeat’ abortions.

Science has changed our perceptions, too, in a way that undermines the pro-abortion position. Imaging technology shows that foetuses, even at a very early stage of gestation, are far more than just lumps of inconvenient cells. Medical advances mean that pre-term foetuses are more ‘viable’ outside the womb than ever before.

More broadly, the liberal world seems to be moving away from the old culture-war idea of abortion as a battle between enlightened moderns and the dreaded God Squad. Social conservatives have probably exaggerated the so-called Juno-effect — the theory that, through films like Juno, Knocked Up and Twilight, Hollywood was (unconsciously) starting to promote a more pro-baby agenda — but there has been a discernible cultural shift away from the view that abortion is an untrammelled good always and everywhere. Even fiercely libertine publications, like Vice, are starting to consider what the fathers of aborted babies go through.

Rather than taking up the challenge of argument, however, the pro-abortion lobby is resorting to anger and a sort of muddle-headed sentimentality. When men question the status quo, as Jeremy Hunt did, they are shouted down and called misogynists. Laurie Penny says that men can’t have ‘relevant’ views on abortion because they can’t get pregnant. And now this from America, a young woman who is so ardent about her right to choose that she has made an evangelical film about her fulfilling abortion experience.

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