Actress and model Brooke Shields began an iconic modeling career at just 11-months-old. From that bright start she weathered controversy and made a name as an actress and model, with much of her career directed by her mother. Today, Shields has two daughters of her own. In her 2014 autobiography, There Was a Little Girl, Shields reveals that her life almost ended before she was born.
Brooke’s mother, Teri, was a from a working-class family in Newark, New Jersey. By the time Teri met Brooke’s father, she worked in New York City and did some modeling. Brooke’s father, Frank Shields, a wealthy Ivy League graduate from a society family, was seven years younger than her mother and just beginning his career when they met. An unexpected pregnancy was not greeted well by Shields’ family.
Brooke writes, “Dad really did not know how to handle this. He must have told his dad, who took it upon himself to try to persuade my mother to terminate the pregnancy.” Brooke’s grandfather met with Teri and made clear that he wanted her to end her preborn baby’s life by abortion. Brooke says, “He requested that mom terminate the pregnancy, explaining that having a child out of wedlock would risk my father getting kicked off the Social Register.” He handed her an envelope with cash, expecting her to follow through with an abortion decision.
Teri had already made up her mind. She accepted the envelope with cash, but instead of using the money to end her daughter’s life, she bought a piece of antique furniture. The story appears to have had great impact on Brooke’s perspective. She was quoted in a 1991 magazine article saying, “Too many people use abortion as a form of birth control. And that’s very wrong. I could never, ever have an abortion.”
Unfortunately, Brooke’s story is not unique. Like Teri, many women face pressure to choose abortion, whether from boyfriends, friends, family, or employers. As many as 64% of abortions involve some form of coercion. Certain industries, like elite athletics and the entertainment industry, are especially prone to coerced abortion, because the gift of a child is seen as a potentially career-ending setback. While there are many stories of women courageously choosing Life in these difficult circumstances, there are many women who fall victim to the pressure of others and the predatory abortion industry.
As more women speak out against coerced abortion, hopefully women facing crisis pregnancies will know that they do have a choice. The abortion industry brands abortion businesses as “pro-choice,” but as these stories and statistics illustrate, often nothing could be further from the truth. If abortion is the only option presented to a woman in crisis, she is not free to choose. Offering love and support for both the mother and child gives women real options in a crisis.