Rejected Blessing: The Role of Olympic Medalist Sanya Richards-Ross’s Fiancé in Her 2008 Abortion Decision
by Kevin Burke, LSW
From People Magazine:
“Five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross reveals in a new memoir “Chasing Grace” that she had an abortion just weeks before sprinting in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games — a decision she says cost her more than a gold medal.”
Sanya was engaged to Aaron Ross at the time. What was Aaron’s role in the abortion decision?
“According to Chasing Grace, Ross wasn’t present during the procedure because he was at training camp…she couldn’t escape the emotional pain.”
Sanya’s courage to tell her story is a gift to others who have experienced this loss. Most couples who share an abortion never talk about the event.
But the pain is there, and touching every aspect of their relationship.
Sanya tells us in Chasing Grace:
“I always harbored some resentment toward Ross. 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.”
A man’s silence or passivity when a couple faces an unplanned pregnancy is deadly for the unborn child and often lethal for the relationship in the aftermath of the procedure.
Often women interpret this silence (“not saying anything, neither agreeing nor opposing”) as a signal that their partner is unwilling to defend and protect the life of their unborn child and that he will likely abandon her and the baby if she parents the child. Women may fear their partner’s ongoing resentment at being forced into fatherhood before they are ready.
Often a child is sacrificed because couples, especially women, fail to share their hearts and express what they really want and need at the time of an unplanned pregnancy. Because abortion takes place in this very intimate and complex emotional arena with both parties operating out of anxiety and conflicted emotions, the abortion experience is anything but a simple medical procedure.
The abortion event strikes at the heart of a couple’s sexual and emotional intimacy, communication, and most importantly, their trust in one another. Men are wounded by their passive or active participation in the death of their unborn child.
The silent and forbidden grief from this shared loss is often self-medicated with substances, acted out in relationship conflict, or avoided through hyper-activity. This can leave couples vulnerable to seek intimacy and love outside their damaged relationship.
The legalization of abortion in 1973 has left a national landscape riddled with damaged relationships and broken marriages.
The Truth Will Set You Free
But not all is lost when a couple has an abortion in their history and recovery is possible:
“After a number of years of ignoring what had happened, she and her husband (they married in 2010) discussed their true feelings.”
Sanya shares that she now has a better understanding of her husband’s experience at the time of the pregnancy:
“[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.”
According to Chasing Grace, it was prayer and open conversation that healed their relationship with God and each other. When couples have the courage and humility to open up this secret loss to the light of God’s mercy and truth, new life and many blessings can flow from that act of faith.
Sanya and Ross shared the good news that they are expecting a child:
“Many parts of our lives have felt like a fairy tale, but this is our biggest blessing yet,” the couple told PEOPLE. “We are so excited to start a family and can’t wait to begin this new adventure!”
[If you or your partner have experienced and abortion, or multiple abortions in your history and recognize that this has hurt you and your relationship, don’t be discouraged or afraid. You can find more information and some very helpful healing resources here.]