In a new book released Tuesday, five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross shares about her career as a world champion runner, her faith, and her decision to get an abortion years ago.
In Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me about God and Life, Sanya explains that just weeks prior to competing in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she was faced with an untimely pregnancy, and a difficult choice. With her career about to take off, she felt she had no real options.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” says Sanya. “The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all.”
Fear of judgment from friends and family may have also played a role in the decision to abort. She explains, “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?”
Sanya says her then-fiancé, now-husband, NFL cornerback Aaron Ross, avoided expressing either agreement with or opposition to choosing abortion, a neutral stance that she says left her feeling abandoned in the decision.
While choosing abortion seemed to be the only option at the time, she now regrets that choice. “I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she says. “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.”
But since that time, Sanya says she has found healing and restoration, including in her faith and her relationship with Aaron. She says she felt the need to share her abortion story in the book so people in similar circumstances can know that they are not alone, and that there is healing from abortion. “I think there are lots of young girls who experience this, especially female athletes,” she told ESPN. “I look forward to having more discussions about it andd helping young women heal from it.”
Healing from an abortion can be a difficult process, and it can be hard to endure alone. At HopeAfterAbortion.com, resources can be located by region. Rachel’s Vineyard offers resources for both women and men in post-abortive situations, including toll-free hotlines: (866)482-LIFE & (877)HOPE-4-ME.
In February, Sanya announced that she and Aaron are again expecting a child. “Many parts of our lives have felt like a fairy tale, but this is our biggest blessing yet,” she told PEOPLE. “We are so excited to start a family and can’t wait to begin this new adventure!”