Annie Gasway considered herself “pro-choice” and thought that mothers should be able to end their preborn children’s lives in abortion. That is, until she was faced with the “choice” herself and realized that “choice” was an illusion.
In a guest post for Secular Pro-Life, Gasway explained that as a student-athlete at a Division I school, captain of the track and field team, and the most elite runner on her team, everything was on the line when she discovered that she and her fiancé were unexpectedly pregnant.
Gasway writes, “At this point in my life, I was vocally pro-choice. I had friends and rivals who had procured abortions so their athletic careers weren’t hindered by surprise pregnancies. Now it was my turn to consider my options.” In collegiate and professional sports, women experiencing unplanned pregnancies often encounter tremendous pressure to end their baby’s lives in abortion. Gasway, as for many of her peers who had chosen abortion, was depending on her athletic scholarship to finish her degree. She realized that her inability to perform at her peak because of pregnancy could jeopardize her future.
At the same time, the reality of her preborn child made Gasway realize that she could not choose to end her child’s Life. She shares, “Now that I had to face abortion head on, I couldn’t continue my comfortable lie that a fetus was just a ‘clump of cells.’ I knew there was a tiny human growing within me. Abortion would mean ending my child’s life. I knew this as an objective, undeniable, scientific fact.”
Gasway realized beyond a doubt that she wanted to choose Life for her baby, but at the time she felt pressured to abort the baby in order to keep her scholarship and finish her degree. In Gasway’s case, her coach was understanding when Gasway and her fiancé told him about the pregnancy, and Gasway was able to sit out a season to have her child while keeping her scholarship and returning to competition after the birth of her baby.
Despite the fact that the situation ended well for Gasway and her family, the experience had a profound effect on her, and she became Pro-Life. She writes, “I realized that abortion is weaponized against women. Those in authority—those with the purse strings—can treat pregnancy as an illness and abortion as its cure.” Gasway realized that her friends and competitors who had undergone abortions while competing in elite running may not have felt they had any choice. She notes, “‘My body my choice’ [the anti-Life rallying cry]isn’t true. Even if there is a choice, it is often not made by the woman.”
Top female athletes, especially in running, have led the charge in advocating for mother’s rights in professional sports. Recently, Altra Running chose to sponsor two elite athletes who were both pregnant at the time. Alysia Montaño and Tina Muir have used their platform to draw attention to the unethical treatment of pregnant athletes and the additional hurdles pregnant mothers face when pursuing a career in elite running. Other athletes, like Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross have shared how they were pressured to end their babies’ lives in abortion to advance their athletic career and how those coerced abortions devastated them spiritually and emotionally.
Professional athletes face coercion and discrimination, but Gasway’s story highlights the unique challenges endured by college students facing an unplanned pregnancy. The abortion industry has led generations of women to believe that they must choose between the lives of their children and pursuing their education to better their own lives. Having to confront that she may not be supported in choosing Life prompted Gasway to realize how much is at stake. She reflects, “If women lack support for their pregnancies, the solution should be to create that support, not push them to end their pregnancies. I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.”Gasway’s story and the countless other stories of young adults in unplanned pregnancy are the reason for Pro-Life scholarships for pregnant and parenting students. Pro-Life student groups like Pro-Life Aggies have made fundraising for scholarships for students who choose Life a priority for their public outreach. Although the scholarships do not comprehensively cover the cost of education and living expenses for students who are expecting or raising children while attending school, the message is clear: their peers recognize their sacrifices and support them and their children. An unplanned pregnancy can be, as the experience was for Gasway, an opportunity to realize the fact of preborn Life. Community support can help students realize that they do, in fact, have a choice and abortion is not the only option.