Rapinoe, Bird Among Women Athletes Asking Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Rights

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 21, 2021

SAITAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 08: Megan Rapinoe congratulates Sue Bird #6 of Team United States after the United States' win over Japan in the Women's Basketball final game on day sixteen of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games at Saitama Super Arena on August 08, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Ashleigh Johnson were among the women from the American Olympic team to sign a brief sent to the United States Supreme Court in opposition to an effort by Mississippi Republicans to overturn the abortion rights granted by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

Lawrence Hurley of Reuters reported Monday that over 500 athletes and groups, including 26 Olympians, signed a brief that argued the "physical tolls of forced pregnancy and childbirth would undermine athletes' ability to actualize their full human potential."

"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, calling the anti-abortion legislation "infuriating and un-American."

In July, Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying abortion was "egregiously wrong" and urged the court to allow the state's restrictive abortion law, which would outlaw the practice in most cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy, to stand, per CNN's Ariane de Vogue.

"The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition," Fitch said, arguing their case to overrule Roe v. Wade is "overwhelming."

Challenges to Roe v. Wade, which was upheld in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, were widely expected after the previously Republican-led U.S. Senate approved three Supreme Court justices—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—during the four-year presidential term of Donald Trump to give the nation's highest court a significant 6-3 conservative lean.

The Supreme Court voted to hear the Mississippi Republicans' case, with oral arguments beginning Dec. 1 and a ruling expected by next June.

Athletes who signed the opposition brief argued "abortion rights have helped the growth of women's sports and expressed concern that future athletes would suffer without those protections," per Hurley.

Rapinoe, who's engaged to Bird, was one of the first athletes to join Colin Kaepernick's effort to highlight social injustice and racial inequality by taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem in 2016.

In 2019, the California native responded to critics of her protest by saying she was "uniquely and very deeply American" and said her social-justice efforts were focused on making the country even better, per BBC News' Marianna Brady.

"Yes, we are a great country, and there are many things that are so amazing and I feel very fortunate to be in this country. I would never be able to do this in a lot of other places," Rapinoe said. "But also: that doesn't mean we can't get better. It doesn't mean we shouldn't always strive to be better."

Mississippi's abortion law was previously blocked by lower courts, which cited Roe v. Wade in their rulings, but the state has appealed to the Supreme Court and added overturning the landmark case to its argument.