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500 female athletes ask Supreme Court to protect abortion rights

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More than 500 current and former female athletes filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court on Monday, warning judges that dismantling access to abortion would have a “devastating” effect on women’s sport.

The legal deposit comes on the day the Supreme Court announced that on December 1 it would hear an abortion case in Mississippi over pre-viability bans, effectively allowing for a direct challenge to abortion protections established by Roe v. . Wade in 1973. That is, approximately 24 states are expected to immediately bar access to the proceedings if the Supreme Court upholds the ban.

The 514 signatories to Monday’s brief gave a grim look at the ways that forced pregnancy could easily end the careers of many female athletes. Women who signed the letter include football star Megan Rapinoe, water polo star Ashleigh Johnson and Layshia Clarendon, who is WNBPA vice president.

Crissy Perham, an Olympic swimmer who won gold at the Barcelona Games in 1992, publicly revealed for the first time that she had undergone an abortion while competing in college after her check failed. births. This decision allowed her to participate in a race that “changed the course of my life,” she wrote.

I was a scholarship recipient, just starting to be successful in my sport and didn’t want to take a year off. I decided to have an abortion. I wasn’t ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I had a second chance at life. I was able to take my future in hand and refocus my priorities. I improved in school, I started training really hard and that summer I won my first national championship. My life would have been drastically different if I had been pregnant and forced out of this race because this race changed the course of my life. It opened up so many opportunities to me, and a year later I made the Olympic team.

The letter includes the signatures of 26 Olympians, 73 professional athletes and 276 interuniversity athletes. Female athletes, the record points out, won nearly 60 percent of the U.S. team’s medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“The demands of athletics and pregnancy are physically and emotionally intense,” the file says. “If women lost the power to make individual and personal choices about whether, when and how to balance these competing demands, many would be forced to sacrifice their aspirations and sporting pursuits. “

There are numerous examples of women whose sports activities have suffered during and after their pregnancy, the file says, citing the experience of Olympic runner Kara Groucher.

Some women face changes in physical and mental health long after childbirth, putting their sporting activities at risk permanently. For example, after Kara Groucher, an Olympic and professional runner, gave birth, her doctor “told her she had to choose: run 120 miles every week or breastfeed her son. His body couldn’t do both. And she “has suffered from chronic hip injuries since running the Boston Marathon seven months after giving birth.”

Beyond the physical ramifications, pregnancy and childbirth also often have an emotional and financial impact on women, the dossier points out.

The next generation of female athletes “must be guaranteed bodily integrity and decision-making autonomy in order to participate fully and equitably in sport,” the women write.

You can read the full dossier here.

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