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Megan Rapinoe & 500 women athletes say abortion rights protect women’s sports

LYON, FRANCE - 7 JULY, 2019: Megan Rapinoe of USA waves after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Final match between USA and Netherlands.
LYON, FRANCE - 7 JULY, 2019: Megan Rapinoe of USA waves after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Final match between USA and Netherlands.Photo: Shutterstock

This past year, state Republican lawmakers across the country have been trying to pass laws banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports, arguing that they’re protecting women’s sports from being overrun by trans athletes to the detriment of cis girls and women. At the same time, they have been passing laws to further restrict abortion rights.

Over 500 women athletes, a few male and non-binary athletes, and several organizations signed onto a legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court supporting abortion rights, arguing that reproductive freedom is integral to supporting women’s sports. Unlike bans on a trans athletes, abortion rights have actually helped women – including cisgender women – pursue careers in athletics.

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Soccer icon Megan Rapinoe and her wife and Olympic gold medaling basketball player Sue Bird were among the athletes who signed on to a brief filed in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, a case challenging Mississippi’s new ban on abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, well before the 24-week line established in Roe v. Wade.

“Athletic prowess depends on bodily integrity,” the brief states.

Women in sports “depend on the right to control their bodies and reproductive lives in order to reach their athletic potential” and “the physical tolls of forced pregnancy and childbirth would undermine athletes’ ability to actualize their full human potential” without access to abortion, the brief argues.

“If the state compelled women athletes to carry pregnancies to term and give birth, it could derail women’s athletic careers, academic futures, and economic livelihoods at a large scale,” the brief states. “Such a fundamental restriction on bodily integrity and human autonomy would never be imposed on a male athlete, though he would be equally responsible for a pregnancy.”

“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, calling attacks on reproductive freedom “infuriating and un-American.”

Republican lawmakers trying to pass bans on transgender women in sports often point to college scholarships, arguing that cis women can’t get scholarships if trans women take them all, something that has never happened.

But Crissy Perham, who won two gold medals in swimming events at the 1992 Olympic games, told her story about how she got pregnant as a college student on a sports scholarship, and abortion helped her keep her career in athletics.

“When I was in college, I was on birth control, but I accidentally became pregnant,” she explained in the brief. She said that didn’t think she should take a year off from competing to have a child.

“Having an abortion felt like I was given a second change at life,” she said. “I was able to take control of my future and refocus my priorities.”

While most of the signatories are women, Chris Mosier also signed the brief. Mosier became the first out transgender man to qualify for a men’s Olympic trial last year.

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