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Abortion on the podium

Pro-abort athletes overlook stories of trauma

Sanya Richards-Ross at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 Getty Images/Photo by Michael Steele

Abortion on the podium

This week, more than 500 female athletes filed an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to strike down a pro-life Mississippi law that protects babies from abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case, scheduled for oral arguments on Dec. 1, will test the reasoning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a nationwide legal right to abortion. Pro-lifers argue that, unlike in 1973, bearing children no longer rules out a successful career for mothers, undermining justification for abortion. But the athletes signing the brief disagree, minimizing the heartache of abortion to argue that the procedure is essential for women who want to excel in sports.

The signers claim they “depend on the right to control their bodies and reproductive lives in order to reach their athletic potential.” The physical tolls of “forced pregnancy” and birth, they argue, undermine their “full human potential.”

“I know I have a finite length of time to pursue my dreams in my sport,” wrote an unnamed Olympic soccer player who signed the brief. “I have honed my body and my mind through my efforts. To have any of that autonomy taken away, to have someone else make decisions for my body and my career, is to take away my life’s pursuit.”

Olympic gold medal swimmer Crissy Perham described her abortion during college as “a second chance at life.” She said it allowed her to keep competing and eventually win a national championship in a race that “changed the course of my life.” Another professional soccer player described abortion access as a “safeguard” to ensure that a pregnancy despite birth control would not jeopardize her dream of being an elite athlete.

But not all female athletes see abortion as beneficial to women. Brianna McNeal, a former Olympic hurdler, told The New York Times she missed a January 2020 doping test because she was recovering from a traumatic abortion. After aborting her baby to compete in the 2020 Olympics, she saw a spiritual adviser about the resulting depression. The news that COVID-19 would push back the 2020 games devastated her “because the delay meant she could have had the baby after all.” McNeal did not sign the brief.

Other notable names are also missing. The brief mentions former Olympic sprinter and four-time gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, who revealed in her 2017 memoir Chasing Grace that most female track athletes she knew had had at least one abortion. To her, abortion’s pervasiveness in the sport didn’t make it a good thing.

“Prioritizing athletic goals over the gift of life was the norm,” Richards-Ross wrote, noting many in her sport seemed indifferent about abortion. She aborted her first baby the day before she left for Beijing to compete in the 2008 Summer Games, she says in her book: “I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal.”

The abortion affected her mentally and physically. She fell short of expectations in some of her races and initially resented her now-husband, football player Aaron Ross, for leaving the decision to her. Richards-Ross wrote that she later discovered the abortion also burdened him: “He believed that our child in 2008 was a blessing we had rejected by always wanting to be in control.”

In a video testimony posted online, Richards-Ross said she had experienced God’s unconditional love and forgiveness even though she had broken God’s command to not kill: “The worst experience of my life, the one that the devil had intended to use to keep me in bondage, in a place of despair and shame, God used to reveal his perfect love.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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