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Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross
Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

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Olympic gold medalist had an abortion: It ‘broke me’

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire
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June 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Track star and Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross "fell into the depths of despair" after having an abortion just weeks before competing in the 2008 Games, she wrote in her newly-released memoir Chasing Grace

Aborting her baby "seemed like no choice at all," Richards-Ross recalled in an excerpt published by People. "Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach. The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me ... 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?"

"Over the phone, we [my fiancé and I] didn’t go into details," the Jamaican-American athlete wrote. "As if not saying it would alleviate some of the guilt and the shame."

The abortion happened "quickly," but it "broke me," Richards-Ross wrote. The day after the abortion, she flew to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

The abortion was a decision "from which I would not immediately heal," she said. It "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."

At the Beijing Olympics, Richards-Ross won a bronze medal in the 400-meter race. She and her team won a gold medal in the 4x400-meter relay. (She had won a gold medal in Athens in 2004 and went on to win two more golds at the London Games in 2012.)

"Sanya Richards-Ross' testimony reveals what many of us already knew – that abortion is a significant problem in the athletic community and that few are educated on the life-affirming options and resources available to support pregnant athletes," Beth Rahal, Students for Life of America's Pregnant on Campus Director and a former college cross country and track athlete, told LifeSiteNews. Rahal said she has helped several student athletes over the years.

They can be afraid of losing their athletic scholarships, she said, but they are protected from that under Title IX. 

"It's an issue that's not really talked about, especially in sports," Richards-Ross told Sports Illustrated's Maggie Gray. "And a lot of young women have experienced this. Like, I literally don't know another female track and field athlete who hasn't had an abortion. And that's sad."

"And so for me, I'm hoping this will open up some discussions" so that young women in her situation won't "experience what I did," she said.

Richards-Ross said it took her and and her now-husband awhile to talk about the abortion and heal from it. 

"I always harbored some resentment toward Ross," she wrote. "It was our mess-up, but I felt abandoned in the decision. 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."

But when they finally talked about it, he "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."

Richards-Ross told Gray that even though she knew God had forgiven her, it was difficult for her to forgive herself.

"Now that I'm gonna be a mother and now that God has blessed me again, I felt like I needed to kind of purge myself of that and hopefully help others do the same," said Richards-Ross, who is pregnant again. 

Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, told LifeSiteNews that the runner's story is "like thousands" she has heard since she and Georgette Forney founded the organization in 2002.

"There is so much abortion truth in her story – her regret, her feeling of brokenness, and her resentment that her now-husband did nothing to stop the abortion, even though he apparently considered the baby a blessing," said Morana. "I applaud her for including this difficult chapter in her life in her memoir as a way of reaching out to other female athletes, both those who might face a similar situation in the future and those who might have chosen abortion in the past and are feeling that same regret."

"Now that she and her husband are looking forward to the arrival of another child, I hope they will seek deeper healing from their abortion experience," Morana continued. "So many women, and men, find it hard to bond with children born after abortion until they do find that healing. I would like to invite Ms. Richards-Ross and her husband to join Silent No More to help us reach out to those hurting after abortion. Their story can help untold numbers of people who are suffering in silence."

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