“If women were to be deprived of these constitutional guarantees, the consequences for women’s athletics — and for society as whole — would be devastating.”
Among those listed in association with the amicus brief were soccer stars Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Lynn Williams, as well as basketball stars Sue Bird, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Kelsey Plum, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor.
The filing is related to Mississippi’s request that the Supreme Court overturn an appeals court ruling that blocked the state from enforcing a 2018 law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In July, Mississippi asked the court to overrule Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established women had constitutional rights to abortions via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that endorsed the right to abortions before fetuses could start to be viable outside the womb, a period generally considered to be around 24 weeks of pregnancy, could also now be set aside.
The Supreme Court, which antiabortion activists hope was reshaped in their favor when President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Amy Coney Barrett, is set to hear arguments in the Mississippi case starting Dec. 1.
“Roe and Casey are unprincipled decisions that have damaged the democratic process, poisoned our national discourse, plagued the law — and, in doing so, harmed this Court,” Mississippi’s Republican attorney general, Lynn Fitch, wrote in a July filing. The brief stated elsewhere, “Nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion.”
Monday’s pro-Roe filing contained numerous testimonials from female athletes about the importance of abortion rights in their personal and athletic lives. Some of those were provided anonymously, while among those lending their names was Olympic gold medalist swimmer Crissy Perham, who said in the brief that she aborted a pregnancy that accidentally occurred while she was on birth control in college.
“I wasn’t ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life,” Perham, who won three medals, including two golds, at the Barcelona Games in 1992, said in the filing. “I was able to take control of my future and refocus my priorities. I got better in school, I started training really hard, and that summer, I won my first national championship. My life would be drastically different if I had been pregnant and forced to sit that race out, because that race changed the course of my life.”
“Women know what’s best for our own bodies and lives,” she added, “and our autonomy needs to be respected.”
The amicus brief noted that women won the majority of Team USA’s Olympics-leading total of 113 medals in Tokyo. If access to safe and legal abortion care is taken away, the filing declared, not only would the vitality of American sports be impaired, but women and girls at all levels would be “deprived of the multitude of collateral benefits that result from athletic participation, including greater educational success, career advancement, enhanced self-esteem, and improved health.”
Scores of NCAA Division I female athletes contributed their names, and in some cases their voices, to the filing. It was also co-signed by the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association, which in effect added the support of more than 300 more athletes.
The executive director of the WNBPA, Terri Jackson, said her organization had an almost unanimous consensus that they should be “heard on this matter.”
“There are themes and arguments contained in the amicus brief that resonated with our membership,” Jackson said when reached by phone Monday evening. “The ability to control the timing of planning a family, the timing of pregnancy, is critical for our members.”
Rapinoe, who helped the United States win 2012 gold and 2020 bronze at the Olympics and championships at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, said in a statement (via USA Today): “I am honored to stand with the hundreds of athletes who have signed onto this Supreme Court brief to help champion not only our constitutional rights, but also those of future generations of athletes.
“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.”