Five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross has spoken publicly about the prevalence of abortion in female athletes, saying that she doesn’t know a single female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion.

In the interview with Sports Illustrated Now, speaking about her newly released memoir Chasing Grace, the American track star shared about the abortion she had two weeks before the 2008 Beijing Games.

“The truth is it’s an issue that’s not really talked about, especially in sports, and a lot of young women have experienced this,” she said.

“I literally don’t know another female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion—and that’s sad.”

Sanya said she wrote about her experience of abortion in her memoir to bring the issue into the open and help educate women about pregnancy.

“At that time in your life, when you’re in college, you don’t feel comfortable talking to your mum so a lot of the information you get is from your peers.”

Sanya attributed the prevalence of abortion in female athletes to concerns about weight gain from birth control.

“It’s going to sound silly to some people but, in our community, people don’t want to take the Pill because you put water weight on… And then people tell you when you’re extremely fit, you can’t get pregnant because our cycles are shorter. So, there’s a lot of miseducation that happens to young women in college, because we’re educating ourselves.”

Sanya said she wanted to share particularly about the emotional and spiritual repercussions of that decision, made with her then-fiancé and now husband, former New York Giants football player Aaron Ross. Writing the book helped her uncover the hurt of her experience, and forgive herself for the decision. She said it was also opportunity to speak it through with Aaron, who was away at a training camp when Sanya discovered she was pregnant and had the abortion.

She spoke of a freedom in admitting the mistake of their decision – both for them spiritually and in their relationship together.

Watch the full interview

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