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Open Letter to an Embryo: Click-Bait Disguised as Heartfelt Confession

As the election season heats up, emotions around political issues are surging through our public discourse. Thus, I’ve seen a proliferation of discussion about abortion, which on the whole, I welcome, because those conversations are good for women across the entire political spectrum. Healing the rifts around this divisive issue can happen through authentic discussion about our choices, regrets, fears, faith and prejudices. That’s good for women and for society.

What is not good for this discourse is cheap, click-bait essays that feel about as authentic as Madonna’s English accent. Jezebel.com recently posted one such piece under the title “Woman Writes Brave, Honest Letter to the Baby She Will Never Meet.” In that essay, a pregnant woman known only as “H,” writes a letter to her “Little Thing,” the embryo she’s planning to abort in a week.

The letter includes H’s admissions to LT: “I feel you in there” and “It breaks my heart that I don’t feel the enchantment that I’m supposed to feel.” She also expresses her wishes for LT, including: “I want you to be happy,” and “I want the best things for the future.” Those are all the build-up for the big confession: “It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new life into a world where I am still haunted by ghosts of a life I’ve lived.” From there, H offers nothing but vague allusions to what exactly has happened that prompts her to say: “I can’t bring you here. Not like this.”

The last thing the abortion debate needs is drama and stunts. Pieces like this cheapen the brave, truly soul-bearing essays that plumb the complex set of issues that lead a woman to terminate a pregnancy.

The problem with this kind of contribution to the abortion conversation is that it is at once too confessional—it invites the entire universe to read a very personal story that includes a justification for abortion days before its scheduled to take place—but then closes the curtain before a reader has any other information. Of course, that information is none of my business. No woman should ever have to justify to a faceless stranger across the Internet a decision to terminate a pregnancy. However, H opened the door to her private drama, but only just far enough for me to have questions and morbid curiosity: What happened to H? Why is she writing this publicly now? Is she trying to get someone to stop her? Is she in danger?

What I’m left with is a feeling that I’ve been drawn in to something that feels deeply inauthentic, like a reality TV show that begs me to buy into a drama that is clearly trumped up for the cameras—like the bachelorette who wasn’t given a rose.

This piece feels like a peep show, as if I’m being seduced into this woman’s unfolding drama for reasons that leave a very bad taste in my mouth.

I read the story several times, admonishing myself to give H the benefit of the doubt. But after several reads, I could only draw one conclusion: This story is click-bait.

It was designed not to contribute to the conversation aimed at deepening our understanding of women’s choices, feelings and perceptions around reproduction; it was written to go viral. Every other personal piece I’ve read on the topic—admittedly most of which were post-abortion reflections—ring a thousand times more true to me. They offered the reader enough autobiographical information to earn my trust and to convince me that that the sole motivation of the project was something more than a craven bid for massive Facebook shares.

The last thing the abortion debate needs is drama and stunts. Pieces like this cheapen the brave, truly soul-bearing essays that plumb the complex set of issues that lead a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Co-opting this issue in a careless and sensational manner by disguising click-bait as a so-called “heartfelt confession” does nothing advance empowerment of women. It distracts us from real solutions that would lead to greater support and understanding of women facing unwanted pregnancies.

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