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More Than 500 Female Athletes Sign Amicus Brief, Ask Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Rights

More than 500 professional, collegiate and high school female athletes signed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court arguing against abortion restrictions on Monday. 

The brief includes personal testimony, some anonymously, about the importance of abortions in the success of women's sports, per The Athletic.

“Women’s increased participation and success in sports has been propelled to remarkable heights by women’s exercise of, and reliance on, constitutional guarantees of liberty and gender equality, including the right to reproductive autonomy,” the filing stated, according to The Washington Post. “Continued access to, and reliance on, those rights will empower the next generation of girls and women to continue to excel in athletics and beyond, strengthening their communities and this nation.

“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 the 514 athletes who signed the brief include Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Kelsey Plum and Breanna Stewart. Those who signed include 26 Olympians, 73 professional athletes and 276 intercollegiate athletes, per The Athletic

The brief asks that the nine-member panel uphold abortion rights after Mississippi requested 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. Mississippi requested that the court to overrule Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that women had the right to abortions. 

Former American swimmer Crissy Perham, who won two gold medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics, was among the signees who divulged her personal history and shared that she accidentally got pregnant in college when on birth control. 

“When I was in college, I was on birth control, but I accidentally became pregnant,” Perham wrote. “I was on scholarship, I was just starting to succeed in my sport, and I 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 was given a second chance at life. 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.

“Even though it was nearly 30 years ago, I can count on one hand how many people I’ve told about my abortion. Until now. I made the choice that was right for me and my future, and I stand by my decision.”

Testimonies in the brief also include stories of rape leading to pregnancy and one track and field athlete anonymously shared stories of teammates who had been sexually assaulted by male teammates.  

“Access to abortion became a major point of concern throughout my time as a college athlete,” she wrote. “Many female teammates shared their experiences of sexual assault and rape with me during my time on the team. These experiences had extreme consequences on their mental health, athletic performances and seeped into all aspects of their everyday lives. For some of my teammates, the sexual violence they experienced was at the hands of our male teammates. Due to the nature of track and field competitions, men and women practice together in groups by event. These women had to face the recurring trauma of seeing their perpetrator every day at practice. If they were unable to access a safe and legal abortion after experiencing rape and were forced to carry a child to term, the burden would have been unbearable.”

The brief was also co-signed by the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association, per The Washington Post. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the Mississippi case starting Dec. 1. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions.

"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," Rapinoe said in a statement per USA Today“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.”