“In God’s plan, each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Catholic, the news service of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. “I have living proof in my family, my children, and the many thousands that I’ve coached that the unborn are amazing gifts from God to make this world a better place. To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”
Harbaugh, a Catholic who has long been against abortion, was joined by his wife, Sarah, and the Rev. John Riccardo of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth to help raise money for several antiabortion charities in southeast Michigan. Harbaugh, whose Michigan program is coming off its best year since he arrived in Ann Arbor and made its first College Football Playoff last season, said the beliefs he holds against abortion were shaped by his parents. He said his views have helped inform the relationships he has with his children, players and staff.
“I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Catholic. “My faith and my science are what drives these beliefs in me.”
Harbaugh is among the first major coaches or athletes to speak out in support of the antiabortion movement since the Supreme Court overturned Roe on June 24 — a move that caused 13 states to initiate “trigger bans” designed to take effect once Roe was struck down, prohibiting abortions within 30 days of the ruling. Michigan is one of several states that have unenforced pre-Roe abortion bans that will now probably become a target in determining whether access remains legal.
A women’s clinic run by two generations of women braces for the post-Roe era
Abortions are still legal in Michigan because of a state judge’s injunction in May against a 1931 law that only allows the procedure when “necessary to preserve the life of such a woman.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, have said they would not enforce the ban.
David Ablauf, a spokesman for the Michigan football program, told The Washington Post that Harbaugh was simply sharing his personal views, even if his opinions do not speak for the University of Michigan.
“Jim Harbaugh attended an event and shared his personal views as any citizen has the constitutional right to do,” Ablauf said in a statement. “He was sharing his personal beliefs and was not speaking on behalf of the university.”
Rick Fitzgerald, a Harbaugh spokesman for the university, agreed that personal beliefs don’t speak for the school. Fitzgerald told The Post in an email that the University of Michigan’s position on abortion services remains “clear” and pointed to a statement issued after the Supreme Court’s ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: “The University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine remain committed to providing high quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs.”
Harbaugh’s comments met with backlash from critics Tuesday, including from FS1′s Joy Taylor, who pointed to the coach’s reference to “courage.”
“So, women who have abortions are awarded?” she asked.
“To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born” – says Man, Jim Harbaugh. “Courage.” So, women who have abortions are cowards? https://t.co/RoROLyE2Vw
— Joy Taylor (@JoyTaylorTalks) July 19, 2022
Harbaugh has not been afraid to share his opinion on a range of topics and social issues. After he initially said he “didn’t respect the motivation or action” from Colin Kaepernick during his protest of police brutality against Black people, he later hailed the quarterback as “a hero” and even hosted a throwing exhibition for Kaepernick at Michigan’s spring game in April.
Harbaugh later spoke out against the murder of George Floyd in 2020, denouncing the police officer who knelt on the Black man’s neck and sparked nationwide protests. The coach even participated in a protest in Ann Arbor days after Floyd’s death.
When it comes to abortion, Harbaugh has been consistent in his opposition. In an April 2020 podcast published by the National Review, Harbaugh called abortions “horrendous.”
The coach repeated his stance Sunday, noting that even though the rights of a mother and the rights of a fetus may be in conflict, Harbaugh believes the choice should favor that of the fetus. He again reflected on what the last few weeks have been like in his eyes.
“Passions can make the process messy, but when combined with respect, it ultimately produces the best outcomes,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Catholic. “This process has been passionate and messy, but I have faith in the American people to ultimately develop the right policies and laws for all lives involved. I recognize one’s personal thinking regarding the morality of a particular action may differ from their thinking on whether government should make that action illegal. There are many things one may hold to be immoral, but the government appropriately allows because of some greater good or personal or constitutional right.”
During her talk at the event, Sarah Harbaugh acknowledged that the couple’s stance could impact recruiting. But the family emphasized that they were speaking out “for the right reasons.”
“During halftime of a game, talking with the players, I say they are here because they have decided to be here,” Jim Harbaugh said, according to local media. “If someone believes in what they stand for, they are choosing to stand for that position, and what kind of person are you if you don’t fight tooth and nail for what you stand for? You get to change hearts by fighting for what you stand for.”
Jemele Hill, a contributing writer for the Atlantic, was among those to question Harbaugh’s motivation and approach to an issue that remains raw for millions of Americans.
“This might be a difficult concept for Jim Harbaugh of any anti-choice person to grasp … but if you don’t want an abortion, just don’t get one,” she tweeted. “Not that hard.”
Donors reportedly gave an estimated $100,000 in pledges to Plymouth Right to Life, according to the Detroit Catholic. Among those donations was a $2,300 pledge so a donor could catch a pass in the ballroom from Harbaugh.
Kim Bellware contributed to this report.