Jim Harbaugh, the University of Michigan football coach, made his anti-abortion views public at a fundraiser this week, becoming one of the first prominent sports figures to speak out since Roe v.
According to the Detroit Catholic, a news service for the Roman Catholic Church of Detroit, “I believe that I have the courage to allow births to happen,” Harbaugh said at the event. “I love life. I believe that with love and respect life and death. My faith and my science is what keeps these beliefs in me.”
Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, were speaking at a Plymouth Right to Life event in Plymouth, Mich., on Sunday, according to the organization’s website. Before the Harbaughs gave what the group called a “pro-life testimony,” a priest from the archdiocese delivered a keynote address titled “We Were Made to Be Brave.”
Harbaugh, who is Catholic and quoted a Bible verse during his remarks, said he has faith in the American public to develop the right policies and laws regarding abortion.
“Yes, there is a conflict between the legitimate rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn child,” he said. “One solution may cause incredible hardship for the mother, the family and the community. As a result, no one else lost their life.”
Read More about End of Roe v. Wade
After the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion last month, many famous athletes, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe, criticized the decision. Until Harbaugh’s speech this week, few sports figures had publicly spoken out against abortion.
Harbaugh’s opinion contradicts what University of Michigan interim president Mary Sue Coleman said after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade canceled. On the day of that decision, she said, “I strongly support access to abortion services, and I will do everything in my power as president to make sure we provide this very important care.”
Abortion is currently legal in Michigan but is being contested in the courts, with a judge blocking enforcement of a 1931 law that bans most abortions. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, sued to end the ban.
Harbaugh declined an interview through a spokesman for the University of Michigan football team, and a university spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday about his remarks. But as news of them spread, Michigan journalists and students debated them online, sometimes heatedly.
Jemele Hill, a writer for The Atlantic who previously worked for ESPN and is from Detroit, criticized the views Harbaugh presented. “This may be a difficult concept for Jim Harbaugh” or “any anti-choice person to understand,” she wrote on Twitter, “but if you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t be alone. Not that hard.”
Clay Travis, who founded the sports and culture website Outkick, said it was inappropriate to complain after Harbaugh presented his views to reporters.
“The same sports media that’s always arguing, ‘Hey, we want everyone to share their political beliefs — talk as much as you want,’ will surely tear Jim Harbaugh to pieces because his opinion is different from theirs. It’s different on abortion.” Travis said in a video posted on Twitter.
Harbaugh coached at Michigan for seven seasons after turning around the football program at Stanford and leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. He was a quarterback in the NFL for 14 years before moving into the coaching ranks and wasn’t shy about speaking his mind.
After George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Harbaugh marched in a rally against police brutality in Ann Arbor, Mich. He previously coached Colin Kaepernick, the 49-year-old quarterback who became the center of a firestorm when he stood for the national anthem. to protest what Kaepernick called “a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” That’s when Harbaugh said that he supported Kaepernick’s motivation but took exception to his method of action.
According to the Detroit Catholic, the priest at the anti-abortion event in Plymouth, the Rev. John Riccardo, said he hoped there would be people in the audience who support abortion rights but were in attendance because of Harbaugh’s presence.
“I want you to know that you are very welcome here,” said the priest, who graduated from Michigan. “We are very happy that you came and just want to ask God to help us find the truth.”