In her 2014 autobiography, “There Was a Little Girl: The real story of my mother and me,” actress Brooke Shields revealed that when her mother became unexpectedly pregnant, she was pressured to abort.
According to NJ.com, Brooke’s mother, Teri, from a working-class background, met Frank Shields, a “wealthy University of Pennsylvania graduate seven years her junior,” and became pregnant by him. Frank’s father “requested that mom terminate the pregnancy, explaining that having a child out of wedlock would risk my father getting kicked off the Social Register,” wrote Shields. “Basically, it just wouldn’t look good for my dad to father a child with somebody from Newark.” Frank’s father gave Teri an envelope full of cash expecting that she would get an abortion; instead, she took the money and spent it on a coffee table from an antique store. Frank married Teri after finding out she hadn’t gone through with the abortion — and though the marriage didn’t last, Brooke was born, had a successful acting career from childhood, and is, today, a wife and mother herself.
Sadly, Brooke’s mother’s experience is not unique. It is very common for women to feel pressure to abort from boyfriends, husbands, family members, or friends.
Last year, it was revealed that Star Wars actor Mark Hamill and his wife pressured their son’s girlfriend, Maegan Chen, to have an abortion. At first, she acquiesced, taking an abortion pill which did not work. After continued pressure, she refused to have an abortion, despite the Hamills’ alleged repeated harassment. (Chen had had a previous abortion, which she said left her feeling “suicidal and depressed for a long time afterwards.”) Chen, who met Hamill’s son Nathan on Tinder, said Nathan responded to the pregnancy by threatening, “If you keep it, we won’t hang out anymore,” adding that Chen would get “[n]o money from a trust fund and no money from my parents. And you could be paying me child support if I have custody.” Nathan’s father, Mark, for his part, claimed 37-year-old Nathan was “not ready to be a father” yet, allegedly telling Chen that she “shouldn’t bring a child into the world that nobody wants.” Chen alleged that Hamill’s wife, Marilou, pressured her by setting up an abortion consultation for Chen without her knowledge or permission.
It has been stated that up to 64 percent of women who had abortions felt pressured to abort. Thankfully, some women find the strength to resist.
Tamika Scott, of the 90s R&B band, Xscape, recently revealed that she was pressured by the band’s managers to abort her daughter, Ocean, when the band was at its peak. “They gave me an ultimatum to stay in the group or have an abortion,” she said. Tamika refused to abort her baby girl. According to Bravo:
Despite the pushback from management, Tamika managed to rise above the negativity and continue her career. “I still outdanced them,” Tamika joked of her group members.
Group member Kandi Burruss thinks that the climate for girl groups and pregnancies was different in the ’90s, which caused music industry executives to panic and apply pressure.
The “climate” in the entertainment industry does seem to be trending more positively toward accepting pregnancy today. But for decades, Hollywood starlets were coerced to abort by their managers — because if they didn’t, their careers would have been effectively over. Live Action News’ Susan Michelle-Hanson reported in October:
… [I]n the Hollywood of old, when sex led to pregnancy, women were led to abortion as the solution.
As early as 1922, stars reportedly had “morality clauses” written into their contracts. Consequently an unintended pregnancy would not only bring shame to these top box-office earners—it would violate studio policy. The fear was that having children would deem the women no longer “glamorous.”
Hanson writes that famous stars such as Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, and others, were “forced into abortions for the sake of earning paychecks, lorded over by men who controlled their lives.”
Abortion doesn’t free women. It effectively keeps them under the control of coercive men, coercive family members, and those in power. The story of men using coercion in one form or another to make certain that things happen as they want them to is, sadly, still an incredibly common story in our society today, just as it was in the Hollywood of old.
When women resist the pressure to abort, and fight for their children’s lives as well as their own, only then can they truly be free and empowered.
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