By Carol Goss and Meg Goebel
Jim Harbaugh, the football coach at the University of Michigan, ignited a firestorm when he advocated for abortion bans at a fundraising event. In his remarks, Harbaugh said that “each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love.” But he seems to have forgotten that the same can be said about pregnant people.
It’s only been a few weeks since the Supreme Court struck down federal protections for abortion, and Michigan now finds itself at an urgent crossroads in the fight to protect abortion access in our state. As an alum, donors, and supporters of the University of Michigan, we are dismayed that Harbaugh would use his public platform in this critical moment to advocate for his personal religious beliefs.
In his remarks, Harbaugh said he believes in “having the courage to let the unborn be born.” But there is nothing courageous about forcing people to carry pregnancies to term against their will.
Real courage is facing the decision on whether or not to become a parent and having the freedom and support in making the choice that is best for your life and your future.
Harbaugh claims that he wants to protect children and protect “life.” But he’s failing to value the lives and potential of the thousands of students, players and young people he holds power and influence over. Each year, roughly 750 Washtenaw county residents end a pregnancy. Whether they’re making that decision so that they can continue their education, pursue their dreams, escape domestic violence, heal from sexual assault, care for the children they already have, or live their life on their own terms—they’re courageous. And they deserve support.
Instead, Jim Harbaugh is using his position of power to call for the criminalization of their care.
People are entitled to believe what they want to believe. But how they act on those beliefs and use their positions of power to influence others is of public concern. If Jim Harbaugh was not a football coach at the University of Michigan, he would never have been invited to speak at this event. The anti-abortion group knew that he would draw attention and donations only because of his role at the university.
And as the highest paid public servant in the state of Michigan, Harbaugh has a duty to use his power responsibly.
We won’t disparage Harbaugh for holding a deeply held religious belief against abortion. We do, however, take issue with him pushing those beliefs onto the young people under his care, including his players and the greater U of M student body.
To the students, players, faculty, health care staff, and community members who are hurt and disappointed by Harbaugh’s attacks on abortion access, we invite you to raise your voice and fight back.
No one—not a politician and certainly not a football coach—should dictate your access to reproductive health care. And through the power of direct democracy, we can make sure that never happens.
Earlier this month, the Reproductive Freedom for All coalition submitted record-breaking numbers of petitions in support of enshrining the right to reproductive freedom—including abortion—in the Michigan state constitution.
A clear majority of Michiganders want abortion to remain legal – but it’s up to us to make that happen. We have to stand up and fight to protect our rights, but we can’t do it alone. So if you are frustrated by this, remember that your voice matters just as much as Harbaugh’s. And we all have a chance to make our voices heard this November.
Join us this fall and vote, so that ALL Michiganders can maintain their right to bodily autonomy. Their right to plan their families. And their right to chase after their own potential, talent, dreams, and love.
Carol Goss (she/her) is an alum of University of Michigan and has dedicated her life to improving the lives of children and families. Most recently, Carol served as the President of the Skillman Foundation. Retired since 2014, Carol continues to serve as the founder of Warrior Women Against Poverty. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Detroit Children’s Fund, Safe Routes to Schools the National Partnership, BoardSource, and is Board Chair of Planned Parenthood of Michigan.
Meg Goebel (she/her) is President of the Paul Goebel Group, a Grand Rapids insurance Agency Partner of Acrisure LLC. She serves on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, as Co-Vice Chairperson and a member of Development Committee, and as Chairperson of the University of Michigan Health-West Foundation Board.