In light of the recent slew of anti-abortion legistation being passed across the country, over 500 women athletes have signed a brief calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights. “The next generation of women athletes must be guaranteed bodily integrity and decisional autonomy in order to fully and equally participate in sports,” reads part of the brief filed on Monday, September 20. In addition to professional athletes like soccer star Megan Rapinoe and WNBA players Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association also cosigned the document.
The brief comes ahead of the Supreme Court’s October hearing on Mississippi’s recently passed law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. The court’s decision, which isn’t expected until June 2022, could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, which currently protects a person’s ability to have an abortion until the 24-week point of viability. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that it would not block Texas’s law banning abortions after the detection of fetal “cardiac activity” — which typically occurs about six weeks into pregnancy, before many know they are even pregnant. The bill, which does not include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, gives citizens the right to sue anyone who provides or aides in an abortion, from practicing doctors to someone driving a person to the abortion clinic — and is quickly becoming a complete legal mess. Attempts to overturn the bill are already underway, including a lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice has filed against the state of Texas.
“As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives,” Rapinoe said in a statement, per BuzzFeed News. “Physically, we push ourselves to the absolute limit, so to have forces within this country trying to deny us control over our own bodies is infuriating and un-American and will be met with fierce resistance.”
Multiple athletes also shared their own abortion stories in the brief. Swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Crissy Perham said her decision to have an abortion in college gave her “a second chance at life.” “I was able to take control of my future and refocus my priorities,” Perham said. “That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate, and a proud mother today.”
Though focused on the impact to sports, the brief notes that benefits of reproductive freedom extend beyond just athletes, noting that options like adoption do not address or alleviate the life-long impact of an unwanted pregnancy. “Simply put, American women excel at the highest levels of athletic competition because of constitutional and legislative protections ensuring women’s rights to equal opportunity and access to organized sports,” the brief states. “If women were to be deprived of these constitutional guarantees, the consequences for women’s athletics — and for society as whole — would be devastating.”