A young woman's recent decision to film her abortion and share it with the world has been making headlines lately and, over the course of the past few days, I've observed the puzzled, horrified, and downright hateful reactions of many on my social networks.
I admit that my initial reaction was one of confused bewilderment. Why would someone film such an immensely personal moment? Why would someone taunt the pro-lifers and willingly incite online abuse and perhaps make themselves the target of militant anti-abortionists?
But the more I saw the hate, the more I realized that what Emily Letts did was pretty ground-breaking and unbelievably brave.
What the people reacting so vehemently to the video don't understand is that Letts isn't celebrating abortion. She's simply demystifying a procedure that most people have been conditioned to avoid talking about, and by doing so, removing all the shame and fear associated with it.
That's huge. That right there takes guts.
We live in a world that continues to slut shame women and publicly question their morals and their values if they choose to have an abortion. Like a huge scarlet letter 'A' branded on their chests, nothing upsets and angers some people more than abortion. Doctors and pro-choice volunteers have been killed over this (because nothing says respect for life more than willing to kill for it, I say!), and probably nothing has been debated and legislated on more by old white men in government than the right of women to do what they want with their own reproductive organs.
Abortion, for so many, is still the dirty deed that shouldn't be talked about openly. It may be legal (although many are fighting that every single day), but the remnants of shame, of dirty hangers and desperate women in seedy, unsanitary backdoor clinics remains.
One would think that it's these exact images that would make people understand how important it is to protect women's right to safe and accessible abortion, but for many the rights of the unborn will always trump the rights of a living human being who has to make a decision about something that will alter the entire course of her life.
Some people can go ahead and be horrified and shocked that a woman decided to film her abortion to remove the secrecy and the shame, but those are the people missing the point.
The simple facts are these. One out of three women will have an abortion in their lifetimes. The overwhelming majority (85 per cent) of procedures are performed on unmarried women; women who most likely would have been forced to raise a child on their own. Does this overpopulated world really need more unwanted children? Are the people shouting "Choose Life!" outside of Planned Parenthood clinics going to help raise them once they're born?
Here's a stunner! Close to 50 per cent of women who choose to have an abortion have already had a child. That statistic completely dispels the tired old myth that once you experience the marvel of pregnancy and birth you will never consider abortion as an alternative. It turns out that loving moms, too, can understand that sometimes you simply can't bring a child into this world.
Despite the grim picture pro-lifers like to paint of abortion flippantly used as a convenient birth control method, the number of abortions has actually decreased over the years, thanks to better accessibility and affordability of birth control. What's even more wonderful is that the decline has occurred mostly in young women under 20. So Sex Ed actually works? Who knew?
It's very easy for pro-lifers to point fingers and accuse women who decide to have an abortion (it's always the women, by the way, as if they became pregnant by immaculate conception...), but the truth is much more complex and multi-layered than spouting clever slogans and parading around with gruesome images of unborn fetuses for the cameras to see.
Despite my initial reaction to question Emily Letts' decision to videotape her abortion and then share it with the world, after seeing the unbelievable hate it generated by so many, I see it as a brave and necessary act.
Women carry both the blessing and the burden of being able to conceive, carry, and create life. A baby is a beautiful miracle when it's wanted, but also has the potential to completely alter your reality forever -- and sometimes not for the best. No one should be forced to have a child they don't want. To do so means they will be forced to give up on the life that they want.
A woman has the right to decide what to do with her body and choose the outcome that best serves her, her partner, and her goals for the rest of her life. The truth of the matter is, no matter how careful you are with birth control, unwanted pregnancies happen, and as a result, abortions will always take place. Because of that simple reality, abortions were legalized to protect the safety and health of women who were forced to risk their lives because they didn't want to bring a child into this world.
Despite what the pro-lifers would have you believe, most women who have an abortion are not irresponsible and immature. They don't callously consider abortion a quick fix. They're not a bunch of sexually promiscuous harlots lining up to dispose of bad mistakes, just so they can quickly get back to the business of whoring around again. They're not laughing or high-fiving as they sign the waivers or put their feet up in stirrups to prepare for a painful procedure that -- for many -- will trouble them for the rest of their lives.
But they're not ashamed of it either. They don't feel guilt. Ask those around you, and you'll see. They're at peace with a decision that affords them the ability to decide for themselves the course of their lives, and when they will choose to bring a life into this world. For many it's a legitimate, thoughtful, perfectly sane choice; one that has been reached after careful consideration and with discussion with their partner.
Emily Letts isn't celebrating her abortion. What sane woman would celebrate a painful medical procedure that can be traumatic, both physically and emotionally for so many? What she's doing is merely removing the shame and guilt around it. By de-stigmatizing what so many are heavily moralizing about, and want you to be ashamed of, she's reminding everyone -- especially frightened young women (who, I suspect, she sees plenty of, working as an abortion counselor herself) contemplating the procedure -- that they're doing nothing wrong.
What a revolutionary notion...
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