The Reality of Choice

A few months ago, a 25 year-old Emily Lett’s video of her abortion went viral. During the procedure, Letts said she was humming and breathing as if she were giving birth.

“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,” Letts told Cosmopolitan magazine.

Not long ago in the mid-1990′s,  another young woman made her way to an abortion clinic with similar intentions.  A 22 year-old with the self-described self-esteem of a “squashed toad”, Lisa Selin Davis was an aspiring filmmaker who began having an affair with a 36-year-old married sound mixer she met at a studio. When she woke up one morning with morning sickness, Davis said she wasn’t worried.

“This didn’t seem as big a problem to me as it might have for other young women. This was the mid-1990s. Reared on protest marches, I had a NOW poster affixed to my bedroom wall. I was an unwavering believer in the fierce rhetoric of pro-choice. And now: a poster child,” she writes in a powerfully honest  opinion piece published last week in the New York Times. 

The married sound-mixer was working overseas at the time, so Davis grabbed her video camera, called a car service, and headed out alone in a blizzard to “exercise (her) right.”  She saw the abortion as an opportunity to make an empowering if edgy video, a chance for her big break in the industry.

When the car driver, a Middle Eastern man unused to such weather, continued to question why Davis would venture out in a blizzard, she decided to tell him. After all, she didn’t believe that what she was doing was wrong. The driver begged Davis to reconsider.

“He pulled over to the side of the road, right there on the Brooklyn Bridge — not only illegal but dangerous. ‘Please don’t kill the baby,’ he said. ‘Please don’t kill the baby.’”

The man even offered his financial support for Davis and her child – “I work two jobs,” he pleaded.

At the clinic, Davis’s confidence continued to waver. She was given a paper robe and paper slippers. She met a woman who was having her 8th abortion.

“This wasn’t the liberating environment I’d expected to enter. The uncomplicated message of those protests led me to think that legal abortion would be light. Lite. I wasn’t prepared for the saturnine cloudiness of the room, all those sad-looking women burying their faces in tabloid magazines’” she writes.

She was then advised against local anesthesia, she was told it was illegal to film. After the procedure was over, Davis recalls her heartbreak.

“The first thing I thought when I awoke from the anesthesia was that I’d never be pregnant again, that I had just squandered my only chance at motherhood. I was sobbing — I had arisen from the depths of the medication this way — as they rolled me into the recovery room where the other women were lying, almost all of them with a friend or partner or relative to brush their hair back or offer them ice chips. I could not stop crying, big heaves and gulps of it. The nurse came over at first to soothe me and then to quiet me.”

A far cry from the supposedly positive abortion story Emily Letts claims to have had.

Davis writes that she wishes someone had been honest with her about what having an abortion really meant.

“I wish that someone had alerted me to the harshness of the experience, acknowledged the layers of regret that built and fell away as the months and years passed. I want my daughters to have the option of safe and legal abortion, of course. I just don’t want them to have to use it.”

Although Davis still believes abortion should be an available option for women, her story is an important one to be told. So often young women are sold on the rhetoric of abortion as an empowering thing, as a medical procedure that simply gets rid of a clump of cells. And so often, stories like Davis’s that reveal the hurt and isolation and stark reality of abortion are shoved under the rug by those who wish to perpetuate that rhetoric.

I am thankful for Davis’s honesty and willingness to share her story. Let us pray for healing for all women who have had an abortion, and pray for renewed hearts in our culture to recognize abortion as the tragic taking of a life.