More than 500 female athletes file amicus brief against Mississippi abortion law

More than 500 female athletes file amicus brief against Mississippi abortion law
© Greg Nash

More than 500 of the U.S.’s most prominent professional female athletes filed an amicus brief on Monday that voices their opposition to a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The ban is diametrically opposed to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which granted women’s rights to access abortion with limited government interference. 

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case against the ban, titled Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The justices are expected to hand down a decision by June.

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Ahead of that decision, hundreds of retired and active professional women athletes filed an amicus brief that outlines the importance abortion access played in shaping their careers. 

“Athletic prowess depends on bodily integrity,” the brief reads. “This reality is magnified for women athletes for whom childbearing age coincides with their competitive peak in athletics. 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.”

Some of the high profile signers include U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team forward Megan Rapinoe, Women’s National Basketball Association All-Star Layshia Clarendon, and Olympic gold medal swimmer Crissy Perham, the latter of whom shared a personal story on her choice to terminate a pregnancy to focus on her athletic career. 

“I wasn’t ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life,” Perham wrote. “I was able to take control of my future and refocus my priorities.”

Overall, 26 Olympians, 73 professional athletes, and 276 intercollegiate athletes signed the brief. 

The brief also takes the financial gains female athletes earn and contribute into the broader economy as a benefit of having access to abortions. Cited in the document is a projection from consulting company McKinsey that suggests empowering women financially could add $12 trillion into the global economy by 2025, with sport participation being a critical prerequisite. 

Women athletes aren’t the only group to submit friend of the court filings in support of Roe v. Wade. On Monday, about 900 state lawmakers filed their own amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the 1973 ruling and keep abortion access unrestricted. 

Should the Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, rule in favor of the Mississippi ban, other states could potentially implement similar restrictions.

“Women’s bodily integrity and decisional autonomy is crucial to the current and future success of women’s athletics,” said Joanna Wright, an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner who submitted the filing. “The brave women who have joined this brief are stepping forward to ensure that all women athletes can exercise their constitutionally protected right to reproductive freedom and realize their full athletic potential.”