The WNBA Players Association (WNBPA) is speaking out against Texas' six-week abortion ban in a full-page New York Times ad published Sunday, the same day as Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.
"Reproductive rights are human rights. Family planning is freedom," the statement reads in large letters. It comes days after the state's near-total abortion ban was put back into place following a temporary emergency stay by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
WNBPA runs ad in support of reproductive rights
WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson told The 19th it's a first for the league.
“You’ve seen the players stand up in a myriad of ways,” she said. But taking a stance in the Times, with players adding their signatures to the declaration, is new ground: “We haven’t done this before.”
Layshia Clarendon, first vice president of the WNBPA, shared the letter on Twitter on Sunday morning. The Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky play Game 4 of the Finals at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Sky lead the series, 2-1.
"You come for one of us, you come for all of us," Clarendon wrote. The letter is signed by the WNBPA, Athletes for Impact, Planned Parenthood, Seeding Sovereignty, Sister Song and Noise for Now.
You come for one of us, you come for all of us!
Signed, @thewnbpa ✔️ @athletes4impact @PPFA @SeedSovereignty @SisterSong_WOC @noisefornow
#BansOffOurBodies #MindYourOwnUterus pic.twitter.com/xb0rfKCt5C
— Layshia Clarendon (@Layshiac) October 17, 2021
"As professional athletes, our bodies are our instruments," it read. "Our livelihoods. Our craft. Which means control of — and over — our bodies, both on and off the basketball court, is about much more than athletic performance, earning potential, or personal politics."
"Because this isn't just our fight," it continues. "It's everyone's. Our bodies, our health, and our futures are our own. Together, let's tell politicians to keep their hands off our reproductive rights – and their #BansOffOurBodies."
Athletes have taken a stand against the Texas law, which bans abortion access after six weeks of pregnancy. That's before most people realize they are pregnant. The law allows for private citizens to sue anyone they believe has "aided or abetted" someone getting an abortion.
It was initially in effect on Sept. 1, and was lifted on Oct. 6 when a federal judge sided with the Justice Department. The ban was put back into place via the temporary stay on Oct. 8.
Athletes stand up for abortion rights
In late September, Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe were among 500 athletes, coaches and sports associations who signed a formal appeal urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect abortion rights. Diana Taurasi, the WNBPA and the NWSL Players Association also signed on to the letter. It was in direct response to efforts in Mississippi to end legal abortion after 15 weeks. The filing was part of Dobbs. v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
Jackson called that letter "kind of the start," via The 19th. The WNBPA has continuously been at the forefront of social justice issues and Jackson has told Yahoo Sports in the past decisions such as this are all player-led.
“Abortion, birth control, and fertility care are vital — not just for athletes who can get pregnant, but for all families and gender identities,” the ad reads, per a copy obtained by The 19th.
“That’s why we … stand with everyone who’s fighting back against the cruel abortion bans in Texas and across the country.”
WNBA's focus on family planning support
Earlier this month the WNBPA and president Nneka Ogwumike announced players will have free access to fertility testing services, a move that furthers the league's support of family planning and reproductive rights. The 2020 collective-bargaining agreement included benefits for paid maternity leave, a child-care stipend and accommodations for nursing moms. Veteran players also now have access to reimbursement for family expenses, such as adoption, surrogacy and egg freezing.
The league has already seen players take advantage of the benefits in their first full season of the CBA. (The 2020 season was reduced and played in a bubble in Orlando, Florida, amid the COVID-19 pandemic).
Breanna Stewart and her wife, professional basketball player Marta Xargay Casademont, announced the birth of their daughter, Ruby, via surrogate days after the Olympic gold medal game.
Atlanta Dream forward Cheyenne Parker and Seattle Storm forward Kiki Herbert-Harrigan each announced pregnancies during the season and took time away from their teams.