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
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
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.