It’s not every day that the truth about abortion is revealed in the pages of People magazine so it’s worth taking note when it happens.
Using excerpts from her memoir, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life People reported that Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross had an abortion a day before flying to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.
The excerpts make it very clear that the abortion decision is one she and her husband Aaron Ross, a cornerback for the New York Giants, regret. Like so many women do, she had the abortion because she felt she had no freedom of choice — and because Ross said nothing to stop her.
“At that moment, it seemed like no choice at all,” she writes in the book. “The debate of when life begins swirled through my head, and the veil of a child out of wedlock at the prime of my career seemed unbearable. What would my sponsors, my family, my church, and my fans think of me?”
She and Ross, her then-fiancé, discussed the abortion over the phone and she went for the procedure herself because he was at training camp.
A day after the abortion, she headed to the Olympics a changed woman.
“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she writes in the memoir. “Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear. I was a champion— and not just an ordinary one, but a world-class, record-breaking champion. From the heights of that reality I fell into a depth of despair.”
Ms. Richards-Ross tells so much abortion truth in these brief excerpts from the book, including that she and her husband did not discuss the abortion for many years after. When they finally did, their true feelings came out.
“I always harbored some resentment toward Ross. It was our mess-up, but I felt abandoned in the decision,” she writes. “It was like by not saying anything, neither agreeing nor opposing, he kept his conscience clear, but it wasn’t fair. We were in it together.”
She adds, “[Ross] explained to me that he was just as burdened by the decision as I was. He believed that our child in 2008 was a blessing we had rejected by always wanting to be in control.”
Had her fiancé just said those words to her – “this child is a blessing” – that baby could be coming up on his or her 9th birthday right now. By saying nothing, he allowed his child to die, and then had to grapple with his own regret for his lost fatherhood.
The couple, both Christians, found healing through prayer and heartfelt conversation. Although she did not win gold in 2008 in the race she was favored to win, she won a team gold in a relay race, and her track career did bounce back.
But it’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if she had chosen life for her baby. Pregnancy has not gotten in the way of gold for dozens of athletes. Most recently – and perhaps most famously, thanks to social media — tennis great Serena Williams won the Australian Open this past January when she was two months into her pregnancy.
But Ms. Williams is far from alone.
American ice hockey player Lisa Brown-Miller won gold with her team while two months pregnant at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. U.S. beach volleyball’s Kerri Walsh Jennings took home gold from the London Olympics in 2012 while suspecting she might be pregnant with her third child.
Pregnant Olympians are not an American phenomenon. Italian speed skater Martina Valcepina was pregnant with twins when she won gold in the 2010 Vancouver games. Malaysian sharpshooter Nur Suryani Taibi was eight months pregnant when she competed in 2012 in London. And way back in 1920, Swedish figure skater Magda Julin was three months pregnant when she stood on the podium to receive her gold medal.
This is far from a comprehensive list of women who achieved amazing things while pregnant but it does help to illustrate the undeniable fact that life finds a way, if we let it.
Ms. Richards-Ross is helping to spread that message in her new book, while also reaching out to other women suffering from regret after abortion.
“I think there are lots of young girls who experience this especially female athletes,” she writes. “I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it.”
Ms. Richards-Ross’s regret after abortion is all too common. To read stories about women from all walks of life who have suffered this crippling remorse and found healing, go to Silent No More.