Olympic Medalist Crissy Perham Among Athletes Speaking out for Abortion Rights

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ross

Olympic Medalist Crissy Perham Among Athletes Speaking out for Abortion Rights

Crissy Perham was a 19-year-old swimmer at the University of Arizona when she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant. A sophomore in 1990 with Olympic dreams, Perham made the difficult decision to terminate her pregnancy via an abortion.

“Ending my pregnancy, I made a decision about which direction to take my life in,” Perham told the New York Times this week. “Someone else might decide to go in another direction, and that’s fine. But this was the best decision for me.”

Three decades later, the mother of two and three-time Olympic medalist is advocating for other young women to be able to make the choice she did.

Perham is one more than 500 female athletes who have filed a 73-page amicus brief, via the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, to the Supreme Court. The brief is on a case that the highest court in the land will hear in December, an appeal of a lower-court decision blocking a law banning abortion after 15 weeks in Mississippi. The case is seen as having massive implications for the further application of the precedent set in the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

It underscores to Perham just how common a story like hers is.

Perham – who swam under her former married name of Chrissy Ahmann-Leighton – became a star swimmer at Arizona, winning a pair of NCAA titles in the 100 butterfly for the Wildcats. She was a co-captain of the U.S. team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, winning gold medals in the women’s 400 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay. She added individual silver in the women’s 100 fly.

Perham’s journey took her to winning gold medals at the 1991 World Champions in Perth and 1991 Pan Pacific Championships in Edmonton. She retired following the Barcelona Games, has continued as a swim coach and is the mother of two sons who have swum in college – Alex and Ryan, the latter of whom is a sophomore at Arizona.

None of that would’ve been possible, Perham contends, had she not been able to make a decision to prioritize her life’s goals in that moment as a sophomore. Perham is also a resident of Texas, which recently enacted a new law placing strict limits on abortion and incentives for citizens to report anyone performing or aiding and abetting those procedures.

From Perham on the Boies Schiller Flexner website:

“This brief marks the first time I have publicly shared my abortion story. When I was in college on a swimming scholarship, and on birth control, I became pregnant. I made the very personal decision to have an abortion, which empowered me to take control of my future. Others may have made a different decision in that situation, but my decision ultimately allowed me to become an Olympian, a college graduate, and a proud mother today. That is what I’m fighting for—for everyone to be afforded the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies.”

Read the full story about Perham by the New York Times here.


  1. avatar

    Please explain that decision to the dead child that never had a chance to be born because of your “choice” to kill him/her. They never got to do anything as your dreams were more important than their life. Who knows you my have killed the next Lebron, Einstein, or Obama we will never know.

    • avatar

      Every abortion stops a beating heart.

      If killing another human being is okay if you get to win two gold medals and one silver medal, then would it have been okay to kill five people to win 10 golds and five silvers? If not, why not?

      If you aren’t able to raise the child conceived because of your decision to have sex, there is an alternative to killing it. Why couldn’t she place her child for adoption and still swum in the Olympics instead of killing her baby?

      Just imagine what Amy Coney Barrett could have accomplished if she wasn’t the mother of seven children.

      • avatar

        Please stop. You have a right to your own choices, and so should Ms. Perham. Your science is wrong and your lack of any empathy for Ms. Perham is painful to read. It’s great that Justice Barrett was able to make her own choices and is now in a position to cause harm to millions of American women by blocking their ability to make their own choices.