Shannon Dingle explained in an op-ed why she considered terminating her pregnancy after her husband died unexpectedly last year

By Julie Mazziotta
October 12, 2020 04:30 PM
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Shannon Dingle (third from left) with her late husband Lee (fourth from right) and their six children
| Credit: GoFundMe

A widowed mom of six — who was formerly an anti-abortion speaker — is opening up about her experience preparing for an abortion just a few weeks after the death of her husband.

Shannon Dingle was suddenly widowed last July after her husband Lee died in a “freak accident” during a family beach vacation on Oak Island in North Carolina. While playing in the water with three of their children, a large wave crashed into him “just right to slam his head into the sand, break his neck and make his throat swell so much his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long to recover,” Shannon wrote on her blog.

Lee died the next day at age 37.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Shannon said that soon after returning home, she “started feeling sick in a similar way to how I was sick with my two biological children and the miscarriages before them.” The mom and author, who has several autoimmune disorders, realized that her period was nine days late, and she was likely pregnant.

“Here I was, a widow, showing all the signs of pregnancy, while living with chronic health conditions that would make pregnancy life-threatening,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t have this baby. I didn’t know how to be a single mom of six, so a seventh child was unthinkable, if I even survived the pregnancy. And my kids couldn’t lose another parent.”

Shannon, who had spoken out against abortion at events hosted by the Christian organization Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said she was thrust into a “shame spiral” as she prepared to have an abortion.

“By mid-2016 my views had begun to change, yet three years later, some of that rhetoric rose within me,” she said. “I worried, what if people offering us help would rescind those offers if they found out what I was considering? I wondered, would my living children hate me because I chose us over the pregnancy of another child?”

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Shannon never had to make the decision — she ended up having a natural miscarriage soon after.

“I didn’t tell anyone for six months, as I grieved the public death of my husband and the private end of a pregnancy,” she said. “I didn’t want to debate my pain with anyone who disagreed, and I didn’t want to relive it with anyone who didn’t.”

Shannon explained that she is no longer strictly anti-abortion, “not in the political sense.”

“I firmly believe that decisions regarding pregnancy should be between a patient and doctor, not predetermined impersonally by a mostly male governing body,” she said. “My body shouldn’t be up for public debate.”

She added because of her preexisting conditions, an abortion likely would have saved her life, and she’s “glad I have the right to make decisions” about her body “instead of having it decided for me by the Supreme Court or Congress.”

“If abortion wasn’t an option, I likely would have faced death if the pregnancy had gone to full term,” she said. “My kids would have faced the death of not only their father but also me, their mother. We’ve barely survived this past year and few months as it is, but we wouldn’t have made it with my physical and mental health overwhelmed by an unsafe pregnancy.”