I’m Pro-Choice Because I Love My Kids

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I’m not political. This isn’t a political blog. But the whole Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke kerfuffle and Obama’s excoriation by the religious right has me steaming. I’m a social liberal who supports Planned Parenthood and Naral. Here’s why…

My daughter Clare almost died in utero. My placenta started to fail at 34 weeks gestation, two weeks later I had an emergency c-section because she wasn’t moving and her amniotic fluid had dropped to fetal death levels.

When they took her from my womb she was white, limp and not breathing. After they suctioned the fluid from her lungs she let out a pitiful goat bleat. When I heard that bleat and was greeted by a burrito-wrapped gnome with crossed eyes, the heavy weight of responsibility and love I felt for this 5 lb. baby obliterated any identity I had pre-childbirth and any ambition I had other than keeping her alive in every way possible; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Having babies can understandably bring into question a “woman’s right to choose” for the fiercest Pro-Choice advocates. Oddly having my children had the opposite affect on me. As Henry and I worked to get Clare stronger and I saw how utterly helpless she was, and reliant on our care, I realized I’d rather Clare never be born than be born into a home where she might be neglected, abused, unwanted or unloved.

I’ve seen firsthand what can happen to unwanted children.

Two weeks prior to giving birth I’d tried to find my stepbrother Joey through People Search. Joey and I were siblings for the six years our parents were married. The last time I saw Joey he was riding his bicycle in the street, receding in the distance out the back window of my mom’s Volkswagen van in 1974 the year our parents divorced.

I was 9 and he was 12.

Joey was an oops baby. My first stepdad’s youngest son.  He wasn’t tough like his LAPD dad or his brothers.  He was soft, awkward and goofy.  He was the butt of macho jokes.  He was criticized, ridiculed, called “Joey the Fairy” and beaten ferociously with a belt by my stepdad.

He was also my brother. We built forts together in the lemon grove next to our house. We played war with fake rifles. We sold lemonade on hot summer days. We sat on the bottom of the jacuuzi underwater, staring at each other waiting to see who could hold their breath the longest. He’s the reason my front teeth are veneers. He was chasing me in a parking lot and I was looking over my shoulder laughing until I turned around and ran face-first into my mom’s van, my right front tooth turning to fine powder on my tongue.

I thought about Joey a lot over the years. I’d heard through the grapevine he’d joined the National Guard. I couldn’t imagine him in a uniform handling real guns. The first thing that came up online when I typed in his name was his rap sheet.

15 years of crystal methamphetamine possession and sales. Domestic abuse along with the crystal meth. I wanted to find Joey and tell him that I knew what had happened to him. I wanted to bear witness to the child that was murdered one day at a time by a father that didn’t love him. But Henry said we couldn’t have a crystal meth addict in our lives.

Joey’s rap sheet ended abruptly in 2000. I said to my friend, who is a DA, “Maybe he got clean.” She said, “Oh Shannon, he’s probably dead.”

Every child deserves to be wanted, safe and loved. I don’t deny there are damaged women out there who use abortion as a means of birth control. A former friend had five abortions. Those pregnancies were her cry for help. But I can’t help thinking those babies were better off not being in her care.

There are also situations where abortion is the only humane path to take for both mother and child. I remain firmly in the pro-choice camp not just because a woman should have the “right to choose” (although that is a powerful platform for me), but because every child deserves quality of life and when a child is unwanted there’s a much higher risk he’ll perpetuate the problem, having unwanted children of his own, if he even survives childhood.

Joey 1971

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40 comments

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  1. Rosie Carrillo
    Rosie Carrillo 8 March, 2012, 11:06

    AMEN

    Reply this comment
  2. Desiree Eaglin
    Desiree Eaglin 8 March, 2012, 11:07

    I absolutely adore this post. Before I had kids, I was pro-life. After I had kids, I am now pro-choice. Kids do deserve to be loved and cared for. Being a parent is a difficult job and if someone isn’t up to the task, if they will abuse or neglect that child then I say let them choose to end the vicious cycle. So sad, but so true.

    Reply this comment
  3. Deborah Stambler
    Deborah Stambler 8 March, 2012, 11:34

    It seems that we’re fighting to keep sex ed in place, birth control as an affordable, accessible option and abortion as a legal choice. I hear politicians talking about their need for religious freedom and morality, but I haven’t heard them talk about how to care for all the kids like Joey.

    Why is that?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 March, 2012, 12:42

      A good question. My neighbor works in child psychology and she’s my hero as she sees so many drug addicts having child after child just to GET MONEY to spend on drugs. I’m grateful for someone like her being on the front lines for unwanted, neglected kids. But I’m sure it takes its toll on her.

      Reply this comment
  4. Elaine A.
    Elaine A. 8 March, 2012, 12:04

    Yeah, but what if Joey had not been in your life at all? I’m just playing devil’s advocate, really… I tend to agree with what you say, but it’s just so hard for any of the business of creating and taking life away to be black and white….

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 March, 2012, 12:45

      Hi Elaine – I’m so grateful for the time I had with my brother. He was one of my best friends and cohorts for the young years of my life. And of course no one can predict what will happen to neglected or abused children. I’m sure there are a lot of examples where kids like that survive and thrive. But as a parent it breaks my heart to think of those kids. Especially as infants not getting what they need. I know it’s not black or white. I guess that’s why I like the terminology pro-choice. As in, there is a choice and it’s always personal.

      Reply this comment
  5. Yvonne Condes
    Yvonne Condes 8 March, 2012, 13:32

    What scares me is that they’re not only talking about taking away abortion, but birth control. And Deborah is right. There is no conversation about what to do with all of the kids born to parents who don’t want or aren’t equipped to take care of them.

    Reply this comment
  6. Florinda Pendley Vasquez
    Florinda Pendley Vasquez 8 March, 2012, 14:15

    “I remain firmly in the pro-choice camp not just because a woman should have the “right to choose” (although that is a powerful platform for me), but because every child deserves quality of life.”

    Yes. Exactly.

    It really angers me that so many of those who are so concerned with the “sanctity” of life BEFORE a child is born can’t be bothered to do anything to address that child’s “quality” of life with unwilling or ill-equipped parents after he/she arrives. Sorry, but the world where every child is wanted and welcomed into a secure and loving two-parent family is, for far too many, Fantasyland.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ciaran
    Ciaran 8 March, 2012, 18:55

    Oh Shannon… what a heartbreaking story. I got an email last week that Planned Parenthood was coming to speak at my daughter’s (private) middle school, allowing parents to opt their kid out if they chose. Which I’m not planning on doing. I’m just so glad my daughter is going to school at a place where PP is not a dirty word. Rare in the OC. I completely agree with everything you wrote here. Having worked with orphans who were abused, and having visited orphanages, I have to say that my heart breaks for each and every one of those kids that have grown up without love. I once hosted a girl who watched her dad kill her mom. Then he cut off three of her fingers as a warning not to tell anyone. It sounds heartless to say that you wish someone was never born. Of course that’s not what I wish. I wish all kids a good and loving home. But I believe life begins much closer to birth than conception. And no child should be born just to suffer. I’d hate to have to make that choice myself now, but I’d hate it more for women to not have that choice for themselves and their children.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 March, 2012, 19:26

      Hi Ciaran — It’s tragic people don’t have to pass a sanity test to have children. And how amazing you are to have rolled up your sleeves and reached out to really help tossed away children. xo

      Reply this comment
  8. slbowling
    slbowling 8 March, 2012, 21:24

    I am pro-life but I respect your choice to be pro-choice. I believe my choice to do what I want with my body ended when I got pregrant(whether by choice or accident). Once I know there is life in me I no longer think it is my choice to end that life. With birth control options so easily available to women today I think you should make wise choices before you engage in uprotected sex.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 March, 2012, 21:43

      Thanks for expressing your opinion respectfully. And we both agree that contraceptives are the first-line defense between having to make a difficult choice.

      Reply this comment
  9. Vanessa
    Vanessa 9 March, 2012, 01:19

    I am pro choice and a women’s right to choose and do what’s best for them.

    Reply this comment
  10. Shelby Barone
    Shelby Barone 9 March, 2012, 07:47

    This is such an interesting perspective on the issue.I am pro-life only because I feel that once a baby has been conceived, that it is not anyone’s choice to kill it. I have two adopted babies one whom the Mother attempted to kill. He is the most beautiful light in the world, and I could not imagine the world without him if she had made that choice. His story made me decide that I will always be pro-life.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 9 March, 2012, 12:20

      Good for you for making a difference –and I’m sure you don’t even feel like it’s a sacrifice — I respect your point of view.

      Reply this comment
  11. Jamie
    Jamie 9 March, 2012, 08:47

    Weird I wrote about this today….but my anarchist views will be much less popular ;-)

    Everyone has campaign 2012 on the brain!

    I think we already talked about this. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 9 March, 2012, 12:21

      And you and I do well even when we don’t agree as we respect each other. xo

      Reply this comment
  12. Natalie
    Natalie 9 March, 2012, 10:39

    What an incredible way of loking at this! I have always been pro choice ! I appreciate the pro lifers comments too! All anyone wants is for a child to be loved.

    Reply this comment
  13. pia
    pia 9 March, 2012, 11:45

    I’m an adoptee who had an abortion. It wasn’t an easy decision. But I had undiagnosed problems and was convinced that I wouldn’t be a responsible mother. My boyfriend had multiple problems–he did kill himself a decade later. He abused and stalked me a year after I had the abortion.

    I have never regretted that decision though I never had kids and did realize I would be a responsible parent. The rights of the already born should always come before the rights of the unborn

    My mother (adoptive) was pro-choice also though because of her status should have been the opposite. She was my real mother in every sense

    This was a very beautiful and real post. Thanks!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 9 March, 2012, 12:23

      Thanks for reading and commenting Pia. My step-sister on my my father’s side of the family was legally adopted by my dad. I couldn’t imagine the world without her in it. Needless to say there are no black-and-white answers, but I do believe in CHOICE. It’s the only way to deal with gray.

      Reply this comment
  14. Caryn B
    Caryn B 9 March, 2012, 11:47

    Interesting perspective…I’ve never thought about it this way as I was always raised to be pro life…it’s definitely a conversation that definitely needs to be continued….I’m so sorry about your brother….

    Reply this comment
  15. Rebecca Gallagher
    Rebecca Gallagher 9 March, 2012, 14:28

    Beautifully written and I agree completely. I’m tired of the pro-life rants and when those in power (GOP)cut benefits for the disabled and helpless. Why is the pro-life movement not pro quality of life movement? And why are we such a reactionary society instead of a proactive society- education, birth control? Not head-in-the-sand parenting.

    Reply this comment
  16. Suzy Grant
    Suzy Grant 11 March, 2012, 22:02

    Shannon, I love today’s post, and it reminded me to ask you this question that’s been buzzing in my brain ever since your beautiful new photos were posted. Why do you ever even wear clothes at all?! Thank goodness for your beauty, thoughts, and perspective!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 March, 2012, 13:03

      Suzy you are too kind. Whenever I see you in a skirt and heels I often think the same thing about you!!

      Reply this comment
  17. Jill @ Mommy Inconsistent
    Jill @ Mommy Inconsistent 12 March, 2012, 09:00

    Looking at Joey’s sweet face, I can’t imagine how someone could treat him so cruelly…then I always wonder what happened to the abuser in his life. We all come into this world as innocent ‘lil babies. It’s sad all around. I’ve always been pro-choice. It’s the most important thing in my mind. Great post!

    Reply this comment
  18. Amelia
    Amelia 12 March, 2012, 16:32

    Having a baby gave me the same sentiments as you describe here. I felt this way before, but a baby just reinforced how I felt. Every child deserves the chance at a good life, and that starts with parents who WANT the child.

    And p.s. the whole adoption argument doesn’t work for me, b/c most people I know who want to adopt babies are looking for babies with smart, healthy, loving biological mothers who just can’t keep the baby for some reason. This is rare of course, so millions of other kids who end up in foster care!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 March, 2012, 18:05

      Hi Amelia — thanks for the feedback. This is obviously a complex and tender topic. It’s good when we can discuss it in a civilized manner.

      Reply this comment
  19. Ann
    Ann 12 March, 2012, 18:08

    Incredibly powerful post. Devastating about your brother. I’m so sorry.

    Reply this comment
  20. Shannon
    Shannon 13 March, 2012, 09:48

    Found your blog via Pinterest. You’ve got a new fan. Seven years ago I found out I was pregnant with my third. The two other kids were 3 and 1. For a split second after I got the positive test, I wondered if I should continue the pregnancy. I was in grad school and very nervous about having another baby. Although I chose “life” in that situation, I realized I had made a choice after all and I was thankful that it was my choice to make. I’ve been pro-choice since.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 13 March, 2012, 09:52

      Shannon, so glad we found each other. I’m lame at Pinterest, but am trying to take better Pinterest in it.

      Reply this comment
  21. Liz
    Liz 13 March, 2012, 21:50

    You put into words what my thoughts have been on this issue for quite some time. Thank you. I have always had a hard time with this subject, because I look at my kids and I cannot imagine my life with out them. I think “if I had an abortion…” I would have killed the sweet innocent children I have. But then I too think of the millions of children out there who are unwanted, and think “what kind of life is that to have?” and no child deserves that.
    I am sorry about your step brother. It is sad when you can look back as an adult and see what happened. But wherever he is, he should be able to know that you love him still.
    Thank you again for posting this.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 13 March, 2012, 22:41

      Hi Liz — thanks so much for reading and commenting. I hope wherever he is that he does know I love him. Thank you for your kind words.

      Reply this comment
  22. Eva Smith
    Eva Smith 14 March, 2012, 02:13

    Great post Shannon.

    Reply this comment

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