Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Pro-Life Convictions: ‘I Want to Be on the Side of Those Unborn Children’
Michigan mentor offers to care for babies that need a home and reminds us all as Catholics in the pro-life movement: We ‘need to have compassion, not a voice of condemnation.’
Editor's Note: Coach Jim Harbaugh will be interviewed this evening on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly with Prudence Robertson. Make sure to catch the full show on EWTN TV at 10pmET.
“I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born.” So said University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, who made headlines last month with a pro-life speech he gave July 17, serving as keynote speaker at Plymouth Right to Life’s “We Were Made to Be Courageous” event in Michigan.
The Catholic Big Ten coach gave a speech at the dinner and auction in which he explained his pro-life convictions. Afterward, a question-and-answer session further shed light on his beliefs — to the dismay of abortion supporters and to the applause of his local bishop and others.
In an onstage exchange with Father John Riccardo, the founder of ACTS XXIX, an organization that supports Catholic clergy, Harbaugh offered to care for a baby if his players or children could not care for a child: “I treat my players just like I do my own kids. I don’t treat my own kids any different than my own players. So the message is the same … that I want to see them have the baby. And after the end of that term, when the baby’s born, if they still don’t feel like they are in a position to take care of the baby, give it to me.”
“I love life, believe in having a loving care and respect for both life and death,” Harbaugh said at the beginning of his address.
“My faith and my science are what drive these beliefs in me,” said Harbaugh, quoting Jeremiah 1:5-6, “‘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. Ah, sovereign Lord, I said, I do not know how to speak. I am only a child.’ Science tells us there is new life at conception; there is new DNA, not the same as any other, including the mother and the father.”
Serving as head coach of the Wolverines since 2015, Harbaugh acknowledged that the abortion issue is controversial and told the audience he respects the many passionate opinions that the subject elicits.
“Passion can make the process messy, but when combined with respect, it ultimately produces the best outcomes. … I have faith in the American people to ultimately develop the right policies and laws that support all the lives involved,” he said adding that “while I advocate for pro-life laws from our government, I advocate just as aggressively for laws and government and private programs that will support the vulnerable mother, families, children, orphans and foster children.”
He continued, “I have living proof in my family, my children, and the many thousands that I have coached, that the unborn become amazing gifts from God who make the world a much better place. To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”
His speech took an experiential focus. He spoke of his first “horrific” memory as a young child of hearing about past societies that abandoned unwanted babies to die in the elements. He then recalled another childhood memory of hearing a local news report about a baby abandoned in a dumpster. And then, finally, he reminisced of first hearing about the reality of legalized abortion in the United States through the Roe v. Wade decision.
“When I was 10 years old, we were now living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that was 1973,” he said. “I can remember thinking vividly about it and thinking about it in my room …, ‘That’s no different. That’s no different than the baby in the dumpster. That’s no different than barbaric societies of the past who would kill their babies.’
“And I remember sitting up in that room, and I was thinking, ‘I could take that baby. I could use some of my lawn-mowing money. I could use my snow-shoveling money. I could feed that baby. It could stay right up here in this room with [my brother] John and me. And that baby would have some fun sometimes; sometimes it would have some fun.’ And to this day, it, still to me, remains the most horrifying, horrific thing imaginable: that any society would not take care of their young, would not let the unborn be born, would kill their babies.”
Following the speech, the conversation between the coach and Father Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, captured headlines in particular.
“So, Jim … say you get a guy in college who’s playing for you, which is an all-too-real scenario … his girlfriend is pregnant, and he’s thinking of an abortion. And he comes to you … what kind of advice do you give him? What do you say to guys when they come to you?” the priest asked.
“So I treat my players just like I do my own kids. I don’t treat my own kids any different than my own players. So the message is the same. For my daughters, I’ve told them that if they do become pregnant, that I want to see them have the baby. And after the end of that term, when the baby’s born, if they still don’t feel like they are in a position to take care of the baby, give it to me,” the coach said.
“I say the same thing to our female employees at Michigan, ‘After your term, if you don’t want the baby … I’ll take it; we have got a big house. Give us that baby. We’ll make a few additions onto it as well.’ And then to my boys or my players, same message: that I want them to be a loving supporter. Nobody gets pregnant without the man, as well. It’s been too long that we’ve made this just the woman’s responsibility. We have to do more as men, not less, and encourage them to be a loving father for the family that they’ve started. And I’ve told them straight up, too, ‘When the baby comes and you can’t take care of it, she can’t take it, you can’t do a baby … give it to me and us, my family.’ So that’s what I would tell our family, whether it’s anybody in our family or our family on the football team.”
Harbaugh continued to explain how he wants to stand up for those he cares about — including the littlest — in light of faith. “I want to be on your side. I want to be on God’s side. I want to be on the side of those unborn children.”
The priest also asked him, in reference to the pro-life movement, “What can we do collectively? How can we make an impact?”
“First, to recognize that millions of women will feel hopeless during this time. And the Church and us will need to have compassion, not a voice of condemnation,” the coach said. “My heart goes out to women who have gone through unplanned pregnancies, and we need to train men to lovingly own responsibility for families they create. We need to be active in adoption and foster care. We need to continue to support ministries, who rescue women who are victims of abuse. And we need to pass laws to support these initiatives. Our talent, our resources, put those into action … we have a chance to vote in November. I mean, that’s the least amount of effort it would possibly take to do anything. And then let’s step it up from there.”
At the end of evening, Father Riccardo pressed Harbaugh further, with one last question: “You have this unique opportunity to coach and to form young men … is there something you might say in a very special way to fathers?”
“I think we’ve done that tonight. I think we’ve probably spoken to the fathers, to the men, right? I mean, that you have a family, started a family: You know what that’s about. Whether they’re football players that are on your team, whether they’re children that are in your home and these children have these big, wide, open hearts that this world loves to step all over: Who’s going to stand guard? Who’s going to protect them? You are, I am, the fathers are going to protect them and need to protect them. And that’s what you’ve been called to do, that’s what you’ve been called to do by God. That is your God-given responsibility.”