Emily Letts and I have never met, but we have enough in common to keep a friendly conversation going. We both reacted to the news of our pregnancies with disbelief; she was surprised to find herself in the position of the many women she has counseled, and I was stunned that after fifteen months of desperately wanting a baby, it happened without any of the medical interventions my doctors had recommended. I remember the sudden weight of that responsibility, understanding that there was a body within my body, a life living in the square middle of mine. It is a phenomenal, unnerving fact, one that Emily, like me, found difficult to fully grasp.

The audience who has applauded Emily Letts for filming her abortion believes she has told her whole story in less than four minutes of spliced footage.Emily and I are both mothers. Both of our bodies have shifted allegiances, turned against us in little ways to make room for small, robust people. I’m grateful to have celebrated Mother’s Day with my healthy redheaded toddler. Emily lost her baby, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a parent. Emily prizes her sonogram, and I understand that. She is a mother.

I’ve only seen three minutes and eighteen seconds of Emily’s life. Those short moments have made her famous over the past week. Emily is an abortion counselor, and when she became pregnant, she decided to film her own abortion so that women facing an unwanted pregnancy could see firsthand what it was like to be a patient in an abortion procedure. She posted the video online, and it quickly gained the attention of the media.

I was first introduced to Emily through a news headline. I’ve seen the video. I watched Emily smile as she shared her thoughts about her unwanted baby. That apparent joy enraged some. Others have questioned her happiness while she filmed her abortion, doubting whether she was really happy about her decision. My concern with Emily isn’t the authenticity of her feelings at the time of her abortion. I am more concerned about what will happen to Emily when she realizes that she is a mother, and that she has failed.

I’m not sure when it will happen for Emily. She might look into the deep blue eyes of her niece or nephew and wonder if her own baby might have had that trait. She may find herself lost in mental calculations of age differences on her future children’s birthdays, imagining a family dynamic with an older sibling. It may be fifteen years from now, when she walks past a display of prom dresses and thinks about the rites of passage her child never experienced. It may not be any specific trigger at all, but a nagging sense of missing somebody she never met.

Humans are susceptible to wonder, to imagine what life would have been like with a tiny altered detail. And one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now, she will watch the video that she recorded and speculate. She will know in her bones that the team of medical professionals who surrounded her that day wasn’t performing a surgical procedure but removing her child from her body. It will be a day that she feels the pain and panic that washes over parents when they realize they’ve been separated from their child.

I’m not wishing that day on her. I’m worrying about it because the audience that has applauded her and championed her bravery will not be there to support her on that day. They believe she has told her whole story in less than four minutes of spliced footage, and they want that to be that. They won’t like the words she will use. They will reject her horror and leave her to her darkness.

Church of Jesus Christ, let’s resolve to be there on that day, because we know stories aren’t over until God completes them. We are those stories. We will grieve with her, understanding her brokenness. We will hold out our hearts to be crushed by her suffering. We may not have made the mistakes she made, but we will bear the consequences with her, as Jesus has done for us.

Ultimately, we will not be there to mourn, because we have good news for Emily. We have the best news: Emily’s child was lifted out of this world by the very hands that formed his or her tiny, perfect body. Her decision separated her from her baby in this life, but it did not, it could not separate the child, Emily, or anyone from the formidable love of God. His mercy, His grace, and His love are tangible realities that nothing can change.

We use the word redemption a lot in our circles. To redeem something is to buy it back, to fix it, to make something better. Our God redeems hopeless situations. When a story seems to have concluded, he comes in and writes the best ending. Emily’s child’s earthly life has ended, but her story is not over.

Jesus calls us to remember and honor the least of those among us. As we move through the season of celebrating mothers and fathers, let’s remember the parents living in the shadows, ashamed of rejecting opportunities and refusing life. Let us bear witness to God’s redemptive power, sharing faithfully that it is his adoption of us as sons and daughters that makes us worthy fathers and mothers. Remember Emily as you bless the parents you love. Remember to love her too.


4 Comments

  1. “I am more concerned about what will happen to Emily when she realizes that she is a mother, and that she has failed.”

    What if that moment never comes? It seems to be an assumption throughout the piece. If that moment never comes, what implications does that have for Emily and for the author? What if she never changes her mind and speaks out against what she did? What if she becomes pregnant again and repeats everything, films another video…or decides she wants to have a child and now considers herself a mom? Now IS a mom?

    What then?

    1. Hi Stuart,

      I believe that Emily is bound to confront the reality of her role as a mother at some point. First, as I said in the piece, humans are prone to wonder. Nearly everyone imagines what life would be like if a choice they made could be altered. Sometimes the choices are major, and sometimes they’re minor. I think it’s normal to reconsider your own choices.

      This is just a conjecture, but I think Emily is particularly prone to regret her decision because she’s gone to so much trouble to proclaim that she is happy with her choice. That’s odd behavior. Maybe she is truly happy about her decision and wants to share that happiness with the world. I think it’s just as likely that she is unsure of what she has done and is seeking certainty through turning her decision into a cause that others can rally around. Again, this is just a possibility, but I think it’s a probable scenario.

      Although I am praying constantly for Emily to be surrounded and compelled by God’s love as she learns to live with the choice she has made, I am also hopeful that this piece will encourage us to look for those men and women who are coming to terms with their decision to abort their children. Emily’s story isn’t over yet, and I don’t know exactly how it will end. But I do know that there are many people who are struggling with past decisions that seem final. I am hopeful that we will be able to extend grace and peace and good news to them.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. I think Stuart’s said something that deserves a bit more consideration. We all know that you believe that she will regret her decision, but why seems unclear. It’s definitely true that humans ponder the what-ifs, but we don’t always look back and think we made the wrong decision with what we knew at the time, even when we think about wonderful things that might have been. Unless she’s convinced that her fetus was, in the complete sense of the word, a child, why shouldn’t she look back and think, “Something good, even great, could have come of it. But I was young and unready, so if I’d had a child then, we would probably have had a lot of negative impacts on each other.”

  3. I’m kind of in Stuart’s camp. I know a good amount of women who have had an abortion; NONE of them have had this moment where they realize the gravity of what they’ve done and feel regret. Most just move on, even those who have come to the faith just kind of look back like “oh, guess I shouldn’t have done that – oh well, I wasn’t saved so whatever…”. This lack of contrition disturbs me for some reason. It’s like a child molester looking back on his victims thinking “wow, that was pretty bad… ah well, I wasn’t saved so ya know, sinners sin right?” Your response to her video seems to be the most Christian that I’ve read thus far, I am DEFINITELY not on your level…

Comments are now closed for this article.