The Women's National Basketball Players Association reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a woman's constitutional right to an abortion by focusing on voting rights and urging people to "vote like our lives depend on it. Because they do."
In a statement, the WNBPA said, "This decision shows a branch of government that is so out of touch with the country and any sense of human dignity."
"We must recognize that when we cast a ballot it is to elect officials and to connect the dots to policies and legislation that align with our values," the WNBPA said.
The Supreme Court on Friday voted 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. The ruling came more than a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step, and it was supported by the court's conservative majority.
Alito, in the final opinion, wrote that the original 1973 decision on Roe and a 1992 decision reaffirming it (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) were "wrong the days they were decided and must be overturned."
Alito wrote that the authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches of government and not the courts. The decision leaves it up to the states.
"We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives," Alito wrote.
Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas joined the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks and prompted the case to get to the Supreme Court, but he didn't vote to overturn Roe.
The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states, some beginning immediately.
"It's just incredibly disheartening. There are an infinite amount of reasons why a woman chooses to do what she does with her body or what they do with their body -- none of which are anybody else's business." USWNT star Megan Rapinoe
Three of the court's liberal justices wrote in a joint dissent that the decision would bring "sorrow" for the many millions of American women who will be losing a "fundamental constitutional protection." The WNBPA statement said an abortion ban "could lead to higher rates of maternal mortality while eviscerating rights to reproductive freedom for everyone."
In September, a number of prominent women athletes, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe and basketball standouts Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, joined 500 athletes and groups who signed a friend-of-the-court brief to the justices. The group included 26 Olympians, 73 professional athletes and various athlete associations. They argued that abortion rights have helped the growth of women's sports and expressed concern that future athletes would suffer without those protections.
Rapinoe on Friday called it a "really sad, sad day" and said the ruling is "completely misguided and wildly out of touch with the desires of the country."
"The right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness and liberty is being assaulted in this instance," Rapinoe said. "And it's just incredibly disheartening. There are an infinite amount of reasons why a woman chooses to do what she does with her body or what they do with their body -- none of which are anybody else's business."
Rapinoe's U.S. women's national soccer teammate Lindsey Horan said, "I'm still a little bit shocked and trying to take it all in. But I do feel like this is taking a step backwards for our country."
In a statement, the National Women's Soccer League wrote that the ruling "denies individuals in this country the full liberty and equality that is the cornerstone of a just society."
The statement added: "Reproductive rights are human rights. Until every individual has the same freedoms as their neighbor, our work is not done. We will continue to make our voices heard."
Bird, who is engaged to Rapinoe, took to Twitter to react to the Supreme Court's decision.
Gutted 💔— Sue Bird (@S10Bird) June 24, 2022
Bird's WNBA team, the Seattle Storm released a statement on Twitter that also referenced the Supreme Court's Thursday ruling on gun rights.
Furious and ready to fight. pic.twitter.com/6fdEHUd4pM— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) June 24, 2022
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert issued a joint statement Friday afternoon.
"The NBA and WNBA believe that women should be able to make their own decisions concerning their health and future, and we believe that freedom should be protected," the leagues said in the statement. "We will continue to advocate for gender and health equity, including ensuring our employees have access to reproductive health care, regardless of their location."
The much-anticipated ruling, applauded by pro-life conservatives, was decried by a number of prominent athletes on social media.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King wrote: "This decision will not end abortion ... it is a sad day in the United States."
At her pre-Wimbledon news conference Saturday, Coco Gauff expressed her disappointment with the Supreme Court ruling but added that she hopes people will continue to speak out because "we can definitely make a change."
"Obviously I feel bad for future women and women now, but I also feel bad for those who protested for this, I don't even know how many years ago, but protested for this, are alive to see that decision to be reversed," Gauff said. "I just think that history [is] repeating itself. I feel like, I mean, at least from my reading, researching, because I do like history, I just feel like just having this decision reversed, I feel like we're almost going backward."
Michigan's Carol Hutchins, the winningest coach in college softball history, said she was informed of the decision by news alerts on her phone Friday.
"I totally expected it to happen because it's been talked about and it was clear this was coming," Hutchins said. "Women's rights are human rights, and in general, human rights in this country are under siege in my opinion. I'm concerned for people's rights to life, liberty and happiness."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.