Three-time Olympic medalist Crissy Perham opened up on why she joined the Supreme Court fight over abortion with ESPN in an interview that was published Wednesday.
Perham was one of more than 500 professional, college and high school athletes that signed onto a 73-page amicus brief to the Court in September, asking justices to overturn a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks.
The case is viewed as having direct implications to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which protected a pregnant woman’s right to privacy in choosing whether to have an abortion.
Perham revealed that she made the decision to have an abortion in 1990 during her sophomore year at the University of Arizona, and ultimately went on to win three swimming medals at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
It wasn’t until recently that she stepped forward and shared the story publicly.
“I think the reason it’s really important that I speak out and share my story is there’s such a finite time to be the elite athlete you want to be,” Perham told ESPN. “That time, that little small window, it needs to be taken advantage of.
“I’m sure there are obvious exceptions to the rules, but for the most part collegiate athletes, they are young. And this is going to be the only time that they get to do their sport. That they might not go pro. I think that’s why it’s important to have body autonomy and to have this reproductive healthcare choice.”
Perham says the decision to have an abortion played a pivotal role in keeping her athletic career on track as she entered her prime years in swimming.
“What it did was give me an opportunity to stay on the path that I was currently on rather than deviate for maybe a year or two and maybe never come back to that path,” she said. “So it’s not the Olympics and it’s not the gold medal. If you hadn’t had an abortion, could you have done that? Maybe? I don’t know, but I know that I did it without a child and that was what my goal was.
“So, I took the opportunity to take care of my reproductive health in a lawful, legal way. And in the end, as part of the growing process, I did become an elite athlete. I didn’t have to deviate off that path and I got to grow up in my sport and become a leader and it literally changed my life.”
Now 51, Perham won gold on the U.S. women’s 400 freestyle and 400 medley relays in Barcelona, and added an individual silver in the 100 butterfly. She also owns Long Course World Championship and Pan Pac gold medals from the 400 medley relay in 1991, as well as a silver in the 100 fly from those Pan Pacs in Edmonton.
On Wednesday, the Court heard arguments in the case, and will have until the end of June 2022 to make a ruling.