More than 500 female athletes call on U.S. Supreme Court to uphold abortion rights
High-court filing includes sports stars Megan Rapinoe, Diana Taurasi
The United States' Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 1 in Mississippi's bid to have the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion overturned.
The court issued its arguments calendar for late November and early December on Monday.
The court recently allowed a Texas law to take effect that bans abortions after cardiac activity can be detected, around 6 weeks of pregnancy, before some women even know they are pregnant. The law is unusual in that it allows private citizens to sue people who may have facilitated a prohibited abortion. The court, split 5-4, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, but rather declined to block enforcement while a challenge to the law plays out in the courts.
Still, abortion providers took the vote as an ominous sign about where the court, its conservative majority fortified with three appointees of former President Donald Trump, might be heading on abortion.
The providers have said Mississippi wants the court to "scuttle a half-century of precedent and invite states to ban abortion entirely."
Athletes stand up in support of abortion rights
Among the hundreds of legal briefs on both sides of the case is one filed Monday by more than 500 athletes in support of abortion rights, warning that stripping constitutional protection from abortion would be devastating to female athletes. The group includes Crissy Perham, an Olympic gold medallist in swimming who said she was speaking publicly about her abortion for the first time.
Perham, who competed under the name Ahmann-Leighton, said her decision to have an abortion after becoming pregnant "ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate, and a proud mother today." She won three medals, including two gold, at the Barcelona Games in 1992.
Other athletes who signed the high-court filing include soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn; basketball players Diana Taurasi, Brittany Griner and Breanna Stewart; and water polo player Ashleigh Johnson.
The Mississippi law was enacted in 2018, but was blocked after a federal court challenge. The state's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization, remains open and offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. About 100 abortions a year are done after the 15th week, the providers said.
More than 90 per cent of abortions in the U.S. take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The high court announced earlier this month that the justices plan to return to their majestic, marble courtroom for arguments beginning in October, more than a year and a half after the in-person sessions were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court is allowing live audio of the session, but members of the public will not be able to attend in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Reporters who cover the court regularly will be present.
The justices all have been vaccinated, the court has said, allowing a return to in-person arguments after more than a year of arguments via telephone. The courthouse remains closed to the public.