Vanessa Williams: I Had an Abortion at Age 18

The actress says she knew she wasn't ready to have a baby in high school: "Being pregnant is the most frightening thing"

Vanessa Williams is no longer in a dark place in her life, so she feels safe sharing some unpleasant secrets about her past. In an interview with Nightline that aired Tuesday night, the actress revealed that not only was she molested as a child, she also had an abortion at age 18.

The Desperate Housewives actress, 49, tells her emotional story in her new memoir, You Have No Idea.

"Being pregnant is the most frightening thing that happens in your life," she explained. "I knew in high school that's something that I was not prepared to do or fight or struggle with."

The mother of four didn't tell her own mother, Helen Williams, about the sexual abuse (at the hands of a female friend of the family) or the pregnancy and abortion until they co-wrote the book together. Helen says she was "absolutely stunned" to discover the truth.

"[I] had no idea that that had happened," Helen Williams told Nightline. "But in retrospect, it kind of put into place some of her reactions during her pre-teen years."

Williams is not the first celebrity to come forward and admit to terminating a pregnancy. Chelsea Handler recently confessed that she had an abortion at age 16. And Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick have all had abortions, as well.

Williams says she no longer feels the need to keep her past a secret: "I've learned to embrace my past," she told Nightline. "I embrace the choices that I have been given in my life."

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