In a new memoir, five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross revealed that she had an abortion shortly before competing in the 2008 summer games.
The track star opened up about her decision to terminate her pregnancy, something that she says was done "quickly," but was the "toughest moment" in her life.
In excerpts provided to People, Richards-Ross wrote that the pregnancy was unexpected, and came at a time when both she and then-fiancé (now husband), New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, were both beginning their careers.
"Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach," she wrote. "The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all. 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?"
Just before the 2008 games, Richards-Ross had an abortion, and flew to Beijing to compete the next day despite her doctor's recommendation that she avoid exercise for the two weeks following her procedure.
"I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she wrote. "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."
The decision to have an abortion is deeply personal — and, according to a 2015 study, one that most woman don't come to regret. Research published in PLOS One in 2015 found that 95% of women don't regret their abortions, even if they found it extremely difficult. Though post-abortion emotional reactions are common and expected, very few women surveyed actually regretted terminating their pregnancies.
Though Richards-Ross and her husband announced in February that they are now expecting a child together, she felt it was important to open up about her abortion to lessen the stigma around abortions as well as to be honest about her journey.
"For me, if I didn't share the toughest moment in my life where I felt God's grace the most, it would be disingenuous to this journey," she told ESPN in an interview. "I think there are lots of young girls who experience this, especially female athletes. I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it."
Richard-Ross's book, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life, is now available for purchase.
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