How social media proved that for many abortion is still a dirty word
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At the beginning of May, a YouTube video went viral. Considering that video sharing is something of a social media epidemic – who hasn’t seen at least 23 videos of disgruntled cats by now? – that might not seem like such a big deal. But Emily Letts’ video content was far from fluffy – she had chosen to film her first-trimester abortion and upload it to YouTube in the hope ‘that someone somewhere will see this and it will provide some guidance, strength, support, or whatever else they need in that moment.’ As a consequence, Letts has now found herself the target of an astonishing number of vicious, vitriolic comments across social media, attacking her both for her decision to video the procedure, and her decision to have the procedure at all. Speaking to American Cosmopolitan in May, Letts explained why she wanted to share her experience: ‘Once I caught my breath, I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion. I knew I wasn’t ready to take care of a child…We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like… 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.’ With this in mind, it is interesting to consider the unjust notoriety of Letts’ video against the popularity of shows such as One Born Every Minute. While Letts' video does not contain any graphic content, OBEM frequently shows footage of the birthing process in all its gory glory; it seems that we are happy enough to see the warm, fuzzy side of this story, but less so to be exposed to the idea that pregnancy can be anything other than welcome news for women. According to official statistics, the total number of abortions carried out across England and Wales in 2012 was 185,122. Despite the fact that there is a good deal of pro-choice support in Britain, the sheer scale of horrendous comments that have been thrown at Letts in the aftermath of her video becoming an internet sensation demonstrates a worrying global attitude towards women who choose abortion. Letts is herself an abortion counsellor and, in numerous interviews since her video became an internet sensation, she explains that she was perfectly aware of the criticism that she would face, but that she does not let it affect her because she knows that she made the right decision for herself.
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