As a University of Michigan alum, I’d like to express my approval for the Op-Ed by Philip Eil. I was not surprised to hear of Coach Jim Harbaugh’s comments — his Catholicism is well-known, as is his willingness to be outspoken on many topics. He did not surrender his right to free speech when he became the University’s football coach. Nonetheless, I was disappointed in what he said.
Harbaugh’s offer to raise any unplanned children that his players might father, while generous, misses the point. He seems to think that many abortions come from an “I’m not ready to have a baby right now” attitude, rather than from any kind of medical or emotional necessity. The recent and well-known case of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, who had to travel to Indiana to terminate her pregnancy, is just one example. Do we really want to force children, whose bodies are not ready to go through the stress of childbirth, to carry a rapist’s child to full term? There is severe emotional and psychological stress involved here, and the health of the woman is more important than that of the unborn child. As a second example, consider an ectopic pregnancy, which is frankly poor terminology because it is no pregnancy at all. If the fertilized egg attaches to the oviduct lining instead of the uterine wall, there will be no child. Proper medical treatment — an abortion — can resolve the problem without much damage to the woman, but current anti-abortion laws in many states are forcing doctors to wait until the woman is suffering severe hemorrhaging, which might impair her ability to have future children, or even result in her death.
My point is not to slam Harbaugh for speaking out about his beliefs. My problem is that he seems to be uninformed about some of the practical realities of this issue. The extreme nature of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision will put many women’s lives at risk. My beliefs on abortion center on the bodily autonomy issue. If, after I die, my healthy organs cannot be harvested for transplant without my express permission, even if doing so would save lives, how is it legal or ethical to force a woman to carry a pregnancy she does not want to full term?
James F. Epperson is a U-M alum and Ann Arbor resident.