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Tennis Legend on Abortion: It Let Me Choose My Future

'We must never roll back our hard-won reproductive rights,' Billie Jean King writes in 'NYT' op-ed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2021 11:47 AM CST
Billie Jean King: Abortion Let Me 'Determine My Own Future'
Former tennis star Billie Jean King speaks during the opening ceremony of the US Open tennis championships on Aug. 30, 2021, in New York.   (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

(Newser) – Wednesday was one of the biggest days in nearly 50 years for abortion rights, as the heavily right-leaning Supreme Court heard arguments in a Mississippi case that could upend Roe v. Wade. One big name has now weighed in, speaking from her own experience and insisting "we must never roll back our hard-won reproductive rights." In her op-ed for the Washington Post, tennis legend Billie Jean King says that in 1971, when she was 27 years old and the world's top-ranked women's tennis player, she had an unexpected pregnancy, right as she was helping to kick-start the very first all-women's pro tour. She notes she was clued in to her pregnancy after nearly vomiting on the tennis court while playing. King told the press she was sick with the flu, and she and her husband at the time, World TeamTennis founder Larry King, discussed what to do. Their marriage was shaky, and her spouse left it up to her.

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It wasn't tennis that drove her decision. "Our lives were so complicated and unpredictable that I couldn't imagine bringing up a child in such chaos," King writes. Although it was two years before Roe v. Wade, King "was able to determine my own future" because she could afford the abortion fee, and because it was legal in her home state, California. Still, she had to get the OK from a hospital committee—meaning she had to argue her case in front of a dozen people—and her husband had to sign off on it. But she knew she was fortunate in that she didn't have to travel elsewhere for an illegal abortion, or carry her pregnancy to term against her wishes. It's a choice she wants everyone to have. "My life's work has been about equality for all," she writes. "If we lose the ability to control our bodies and our futures, so many of the gains women have made will be undone." Her essay here. (Read more Billie Jean King stories.)

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