Lee Dingle, 37, was playing in the ocean with three of his six children on a family vacation when he was struck and killed by a powerful wave.
Two weeks after the freak accident killed her husband in July of 2019, Shannon Dingle discovered she was pregnant with his baby.
“I was terrified,” Shannon, a 38-year-old writer from North Carolina, told TODAY Parents, noting that she lives with chronic health conditions that would make pregnancy life-threatening.
Shannon, a former pro-life speaker, began preparing for an abortion. She didn’t tell anyone.
“I needed to sort through it by myself and I didn’t want anyone to convince me to change my mind,” Shannon explained.
Three of the Dingle’s children have special needs: cerebral palsy, HIV and autism.
“I couldn’t do it without my person. I couldn’t do it without Lee,” she said. “We were all going through such deep grief and the kids were very much looking to me for their stability. I needed to be there for them and I knew I couldn’t be if I continued this pregnancy.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Shannon to make. Until her views changed a few years ago, the mother of six only voted Republican because of her pro-life stance.
“I wondered, would my living children hate me because I chose us over the pregnancy of another child?” Shannon wrote in an op-ed for USA TODAY. “The shame spiral in which I was residing was strong. I wasn’t sure I could be loved if I didn’t risk everything to bring another child into the world. This is how you think when you’ve been groomed by the pro-life movement to see pregnancy in black and white with no room for gray.”
But before Shannon could schedule the procedure, she experienced a miscarriage. The sudden loss triggered a wide range of emotions ranging from relief to sadness.
“It needed to end, and after sitting by my husband’s side as he died, I really didn’t want to have to enter another medical setting any time soon,” Shannon explained. “(But) miscarrying alone is awful and lonely and painful.”
Shannon said she has been inundated with messages on social media about her USA TODAY piece, in which she expresses gratitude for her constitutional right to make a hard decision.
“I’ve gotten some really lovely letters about how I’m going to hell,” Shannon told TODAY Parents. “But there’s also a lot of women showing up in my inbox with their stories about abortion, and I’m glad for that. I write to help other people feel not alone.”