Biblical Responses to Sports Culture

Abortion And The College Athlete

By December 20, 2018 One Comment

“I literally don’t know another female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion.”  

Sanya Richards Ross’ sent shockwaves throughout sports culture in 2017 with a simple confession. Perhaps more shocking is that any of us are surprised by the truth of such statements. By the time you finish reading this, over 300 babies worldwide will have been aborted. Just about one every second. I don’t even know what to type next. I’m heartbroken.

Athletes, we need to talk about abortion. Our culture is aggressively choosing to sweep the issue under the rug. We need to talk about it because as difficult as it is to talk about, abortion has spiritual, emotional and physical components that have lifelong consequences. We need to talk about it because of the lies that are being fed to you in terms of your options and rights. There are not a lot safe places to go to process a decision like this—especially as an athlete.

And so I am writing this to college athletes everywhere. I am writing this because abortion—or the decision not to abort—has played a significant role in the shaping of my family.

If you are considering abortion, I want to plead with you that there are other options available.

If you have had an abortion before, I want to encourage you that there is grace and mercy offered through Jesus. Healing is possible.

We need to talk about this. Please read this all the way through.

To my sisters who are considering abortion

I don’t know the circumstances that led to you getting pregnant. I can’t imagine what you are going through and the questions swirling around your mind. How will your coach respond? What will your teammates think? What about your parents? Who can you talk to about this? Should you talk about this? If you were sitting across from me right now, there would be five very important truths I would want you to consider before making any decision.

Fear of losing your scholarship

In 2007, ESPN reported that many collegiate athletes were having abortions out of fear of losing their scholarship. Assuming you have not signed a legally binding document from your college coach agreeing that you will not get pregnant, you will NOT lose your scholarship. You are protected under Title IX to carry the baby full term.

Universities are explicitly prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex in education programs or activities at schools that receive federal taxpayer funding. This means it is unlawful for an athlete to lose her scholarship or be kicked off her team because of her pregnancy.  

Temporary loss of your sport

Becoming pregnant does not mean your life as a collegiate athlete is over. This is not true. Yes, there will be a period of time during the pregnancy when you are incapable of practicing and competing. But it is only temporary. The NCAA has a great “Pregnancy Tool Kit” on their website with scores of helpful information surrounding pregnant student-athletes. The document speaks to the temporary—and healthy reality of pregnancy:

“Unlike a knee injury, pregnancy is normal and healthy for the female body. Although pregnancy may require temporary accommodations, there is no evidence that post-partum women are not capable of returning to and even improving upon their athletic form. In fact, most athletes who are mothers report pregnancy as a positive event physically, adding to their strength and stamina.”

There is a real human growing inside of you

I was told earlier this year from someone in the healthcare industry (not Planned Parenthood) that the vast majority of women considering abortions change their mind after seeing an ultrasound of their baby. This is hardly surprising. The ultrasound offers what our culture wants us to ignore: proof that what is growing inside of you is a real human, not simply a clump of cells.  This makes all the difference.

Gregory Koukl points out in his book Precious Unborn Human Persons that if the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. But, if the unborn is a human person, not justification for abortion is adequate. Everything hinges on the identity inside the womb—your womb.

How does God regard the unborn? Psalm 139:13-16 goes to great lengths to show the value God places on this relationship:

For you formed my inward parts;

   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

   my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

   the days that were formed for me,

   when as yet there was none of them.

David Platt adds commentary to this verse in his book Counter Culture:

“The psalmist didn’t necessarily know how God takes an egg and a sperm and brings them together. How a few weeks later, often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant, a human heart is beating and circulating its own blood. Within a few more weeks, fingers are forming on hands and brain waves are detectable. Kidneys are forming and functioning, followed by a gallbladder, and then by the twelfth week, all the organs of a baby boy or girl are functioning, and he or she can cry. All of this occurs within three short months—only the first trimester!”

Sister, God views the baby growing inside of you as a real human being.

But what about modern science? Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas does not shy away from bringing science into the discussion:

“The idea that life begins at conception is a scientific fact. Here we are. Everyone in this room, we had a beginning. That beginning for every one of us was when a sperm and an egg collided. In that collision, a new strand of DNA was born that was wholly separate from Mom’s DNA, wholly separate from Dad’s DNA. Right out of the gate, there we are in the image of God, made in the womb. Life begins at conception.”

Death is always regrettable

One study reported that after only two years, 28% of American women who receive an abortion believed that their abortion did more harm than good.  I would imagine that percentage only increases with each passing year.

The regret from abortion is a tremendous burden, with rippling effects on a woman’s life. I want to plead with you to consider the potential regret that may follow you around if you make this decision. Is this something that you’ve taken time to consider?

It’s hard enough to make decisions with the pain and fear you’re currently facing, but a choice like abortion can trigger deeper pain for the future. Sister, regret is too large of a burden to carry. I want more for your future and your wholeness than regret.

If you conclude that there is a real baby boy or girl growing inside of you and still choose to terminate the pregnancy, the normal human response to that should be grief, sadness, and regret.

To end the life of your child and claim that you have zero regrets is almost unthinkable. Terminating your pregnancy may leave you feeling relieved in the short term, but death at any level, especially if initiated by us, will leave scars of regret.

There is a family who will love your child

What are you supposed to do if you follow through with the pregnancy? The two most obvious answers are either parenting the child or placing the child up for adoption. As a father who has two adopted kids of my own, let me speak to the option of adoption. There are currently an estimated 2 million families in the U.S. waiting to adopt a child.

When we decided to adopt, we were thoroughly vetted by our placement agency. We also put together a profile book that the agency showed to expecting mothers. Those expecting mothers searched through a handful of profile books and were able to select the family they thought would best match what they wanted for their child.

The birth mother also determines the relationship moving forward. There are three options: open, semi-open, and closed. In a closed adoption, the birth mom prefers no contact with the adoptive family after the child is born. Semi-open adoptions mean the adoptive families send pictures and updates to the birth mom on a monthly or yearly basis, but there is no contact. Open adoption means the birth mom desires a relationship—of some kind—with the adoptive family and her birth child and both parties work together with the placement agency to determine what that relationship will look like moving forward.

Choosing adoption for your child is one of the most courageous choices you can make.

If you are pregnant and considering an abortion, please consider adoption as a better option. Email me right now ([email protected]) and with my wife’s help, we can connect you to an adoption agency closest to you that will help you. We can help answer any questions you may have. You are not in this alone!

Two of my heroes

In 2012, Talschika lived in Baton Rouge and was pregnant with her fifth child. Unsure what to do next, she contemplated abortion as an option. In the end, she decided the best option was to contact the nearest adoption agency and place her unborn child up for adoption. On October 13, 2012, she gave birth to a baby girl. Her name was Hadassah.

Lakeisha was from Birmingham, AL. In 2014, she was raped. She didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was only a month away from giving birth. Lakeisha chose adoption as well. On April 20, 2015, Lakeisha gave birth to a baby boy. His name was Judah.

Because of the courageous choices of these two women, Hadassah and Judah are part of a family that loves them and cannot imagine life without them.

Hadassah is my daughter.

Judah is my son.

If you are currently pregnant and considering abortion as an option, I want to beg you to consider adoption as a better path forward. Your athletic career is important. It matters. But making the right choice with your child matters so much more. Choose life and leave a legacy in this world far beyond the scoreboard.

Two final thoughts

To my sisters who have had an abortion

If you have had an abortion(s) in the past, I want to encourage you that there is forgiveness, grace, and mercy offered through Jesus. Romans 8:1 declares that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

That means if you have come to a place where you have trusted in Jesus’ finished work to bring you into a restored relationship with God, He does not hold your sin against you. He died for your sins—including your abortion(s). I know that because after Romans 8:1, it does not say “except (enter your name here).” Jesus died once and for all—for all.

Sister, Jesus does not want you to walk in shame any longer.

In the gospel of John, we see how Jesus interacts with a woman covered in shame. While Jesus is teaching, the religious leaders drag in a woman who has just been caught in adultery. The law says she needs to be stoned to death. Jesus responds by saying “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Everybody drops their stones and leaves. Jesus is left alone with the woman caught in her shame. John 8:10-11 finishes their exchange: “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”

In the middle of her shame, fully exposed, Jesus says “I don’t condemn you.”

But he doesn’t end the conversation there. He adds “from now on sin no more.” Both statements are powerful and the order is intentional. Too many people have a view of God that flips the end of this conversation to read like this: “Go and sin no more and then I won’t condemn you.” Jesus starts with how he sees her. Only after expressing his view of her does he offer his instruction on what she should do next.

Sister, God loves you. He sees you and the baby growing inside of you as his image bearers. If you have placed your faith in him, he does not condemn you! But his command remains on all of us, myself included: “Go and sin no more.”

You have a choice to make to “sin no more” by choosing to carry your baby full term and make the choices to parent or place him or her up for adoption.

To my brothers who have encouraged abortions

Men, we are at fault too. We can trace our guilt back to Adam, who seems to have passed down an unfortunate character flaw to the rest of us. Genesis 3:6 explains the circumstances surrounding the entry point of sin into our world:

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Who was with her. Adam’s was right next to Eve and he did nothing. Men, if you lack the self-control to abstain from having sex, while at the same time lacking wisdom in using any sort of protection, I’m not sure what I type next will do any good. But I’ll still try.

If the woman you slept with is pregnant, you have a responsibility—both to her and the child she is carrying. That child is yours too. The only death that needs to occur is your tendency to default to passivity. Yes, your life is about to change. But your role in the coming months is to love the woman who is carrying your child unconditionally and give her the confidence that you are with her every step of the way. Eve’s right to choose doesn’t mean she made the right choice. I wonder what would have happened if Adam stood up for her, protected her, and helped her understand the lies she was believing?

 

 

Brian Smith

Author Brian Smith

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  • Greg Chesmore says:

    Brian, This piece will undoubtedly save lives and lead to healing and peace! Thank you for writing it and being a voice for the voiceless.