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How Having Kids Made Me Even More Pro-Choice

I'm not political. 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 my husband 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 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 just my brother. We built forts together in the lemon grove next to our house. We played war with fake rifles. We sold lemonade on the street corner 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, that in fact, hated him. But my husband 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 Ellen, 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, in my opinion, 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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Shannon blogs at: The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful

Download her book here


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