Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh: 'Have the courage to let the unborn be born'

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke about his pro-life views during a charity event on Sunday, discussing how the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide will impact conversations about the issue. 

The 58-year-old Catholic was one of the keynote speakers at a dinner and auction for Plymouth Area Right to Life held at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. The pro-life organization advocates against abortion through prayer and supporting local pregnancy resource centers. 

As the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit's news service reported Monday, Harbaugh shared the stage with Fr. John Riccardo, founder of ACTS XXIX, a group seeking to bring about the "transformation of the Church."

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The sold-out event raised an estimated $44,000 for pro-life initiatives in the area.

Plymouth Right to Life also received an estimated $100,000 from donors and an additional $2,300 from a donor who paid to catch a pass from Harbaugh. 

“I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born,” Harbaugh said. “I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death.” 

The football coach pointed to his Catholic faith and science as the reasons for his pro-life beliefs. He also quoted Jeremiah 1:5, which reads: “‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”

Harbaugh said his parents brought him up with pro-life values, which he has passed on to his own children. The former San Francisco 49ers coach acknowledged that not everyone shares these values and that the recent overturning of Roe has likely added tension to conversations about abortion.

“Passions can make the process messy, but when combined with respect, it ultimately produces the best outcomes," he was quoted as saying.

“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,” he added. “I recognize one’s personal thinking regarding morality of a particular action may differ from their thinking on whether government should make that action illegal.”

Harbaugh reportedly maintained that “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.” But he doesn't believe "that is the case with abortion."

Harbaugh acknowledged there are “conflicts between the legitimate rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn child.”

“One resolution might involve incredible hardship for the mother, family, and society. Another results in the death of an unborn person,” he asserted.

According to The Detroit Catholic, Harbaugh concluded that neither outcome is ideal but stressed that the right to life of the unborn outweighs the alternative. He said "each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love.” 

The coach concluded that being pro-life means supporting women and families needing assistance.

“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," he said. "To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”

After the keynote address concluded, Harbaugh’s wife, Sarah, reportedly shared her story, revealing that her parents used to go outside Planned Parenthood to pray. 

“I feel my mom was a big influence for me, both my parents talked about protecting the unborn,” Sarah Harbaugh was quoted as saying. “I have friends, even family, who have considered abortion or had an abortion, and I know they are not better for it.” 

Sarah Harbaugh contended that if there was “more support for women” and more people knew about what happens in an abortion, then “we would be in a different place on this issue.”

Fr. Riccardo stressed during his speech that this is an important time for the pro-life movement. With the Supreme Court returning the abortion issue to the states in the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Riccardo encouraged pro-lifers to continue their work in Michigan. 

“Do not long for an easier time, if for no other reason than there never was one,” he proclaimed. “God could have created us to be alive in any moment in history, but he chose for us to be alive now in these critical days for us to make an impact not only in our country, but especially in our state.”

Jim Harbaugh is among the highest-paid coaches in college football and led the Michigan Wolverines to a Big Ten championship in 2021. 

In a statement shared with media outlets, a spokesperson for the University of Michigan declared that Harbaugh has a "constitutional right" to share his "personal views" that don't speak on behalf of the university.

As The Washington Post reports, Harbaugh is among the first big-name coaches or athletes to express support for the pro-life movement since Roe was overturned. 

Michigan is one of several states identified by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute as having an unenforced abortion ban that can go into effect in the absence of Roe. However, a court order is currently preventing the ban from becoming law. The state’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel has indicated that she would not enforce the ban.

The pro-abortion group Reproductive Freedom for All announced last week that it gathered the required signatures to put a ballot measure before Michigan voters to codify the right to abortion in the November general election. 

Harbaugh is not the only sports figure to voice his pro-life views. Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, the son of missionaries known for his Christian faith, shared his pro-life beliefs on many occasions.

Tebow spoke at the 2021 March for Life in Washington, D.C., declaring that "every single life matters to God." 

Retired NFL tight end Benjamin Watson has also been active in the pro-life movement. After playing in the NFL from 2004 to 2019, Watson took on a role with the pro-life organization Human Coalition, which supports pro-life pregnancy clinics nationwide. 

"We all have inherent dignity as creations of God," Watson told The Christian Post at the time. "From womb to tomb, people deserve to be respected, and mothers deserve to be supported. Human Coalition has a full spectrum of services, from telecare and brick-and-mortar clinics to working toward policy and legislation. They are involved in so many different aspects of caring for women, families, and preborn children.”

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