Abortions are common among young female athletes, Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross said in an interview this week.
Richards-Ross has been sharing her own abortion story in media interviews recently as she promotes her new book, “Chasing Grace.” Richards-Ross said God healed and forgave her for aborting her unborn baby, and, by telling her story, she hopes to help other women heal, too.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s “Now” show, the track athlete said many of her fellow athletes also have had abortions.
“The truth is it’s an issue that’s not really talked about, especially in sports, and a lot of young women have experienced this,” Richards-Ross said. “I literally don’t know another female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion – and that’s sad.
“So, for me, I’m hoping that this will open up some discussions, to helping especially a lot of young women who were in my situation not experience what I did,” she said.
Richards-Ross said she and her fiance, now husband, were using natural family planning in 2008 when she became pregnant. She said the artificial birth control she had been using was negatively affecting her health, so they switched to a natural family planning method.
She had the abortion one day before traveling to the Beijing Olympics, Flotrack reports. At the games, she won a bronze medal in the 400-meter race and gold in the 4×400 relay.
“Prioritizing athletic goals over the gift of life was the norm. It was all around me, but not until it was me did I realize many of these young women only wore a mask of indifference for something I can now testify requires deep thought and proper counsel,” she wrote in her book.
Richards-Ross said young female athletes often are not well informed about their fertility. She said many think that because of their weight and activity levels, they cannot get pregnant.
“It’s going to sound silly to some people but, in our community, people don’t want to take the pill because you put water weight on,” she said. “And then people tell you when you’re extremely fit, you can’t get pregnant because our [menstrual] cycles are shorter. So, there’s a lot of miseducation that happens to young women in college, because we’re educating ourselves.”
She described her abortion to “Now” as a “scarlet letter” and a “decision that broke me.”
For two years, Richards-Ross said she prayed about sharing her abortion story publicly. It was an extremely painful, private experience, and only a few people in her life knew about it. Richards-Ross said she has not completely healed and she still cries sometimes when she thinks about it; but she hopes her story will help other women understand that God will forgive and heal them, too.
“I’ve always wanted God to use me to help other people. Ultimately, I did it to glorify God and to tell people that you can come back from any decision no matter how hard it is to make… you can still have God with you on the journey,” she told a podcast earlier this month.
She and her husband, former New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, now are expecting a second child.
A few athletes do buck the trend. Last year, track athlete Sarah Brown revealed that she became pregnant while training for the Olympics. The young mother chose life for her unborn baby and did not get her chance at Olympic gold.
“This is my first child and my husband and I did plan on having kids at some point, it just happened a bit earlier than we were expecting!” she told Elle’s Kristina Rodulfo.
“Today wasn’t the fairytale ending you dream about. But then again, this journey never really was about an ending, it’s a beginning,” she posted on Instagram. “A new chapter as a family of three. Thanks for all the support & you can bet you will continue to see this mama run #runmamarun”