Abortion rights changes leave college athletes with uncertainty – USA TODAY

Look closely at a map of states with near-total abortion bans or lawmakers pushing for them, and you’ll notice it closely matches the footprints of the SEC, Big 12, and much of the Big Ten. 
The overturning of Roe v. Wade two months ago is causing a “major panic” across women’s college sports, one Power Five coach told USA TODAY Sports. Coaches, athletic administrators and support staff are trying to figure out, often on their own, what is allowed and what isn’t, what they can say and what they can’t, and what they will do if (when) an athlete comes to them and says she needs an abortion.
“If a young woman is in a moment of crisis, that is when they need to know they can rely on us,” one Power Five coach in a state that bans abortion said. “The ruling doesn’t change that it’s our job to support and serve these young women — it’s just made it a lot more challenging.”                                  
READ THE FULL STORY: Uncertainty for college women’s coaches, athletic departments after Roe v. Wade’s reversal
On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned Roe, with a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ending the constitutional right to an abortion that U.S. women had for the past 50 years. Each state now decides on access to abortion, and many moved quickly to ban it completely.
About one third of U.S. women have lost access to abortion in the two months since the Dobbs decision. 
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and policy organization, women ages 20-24 accounted for 34% of abortions nationwide, the most of any age group. Women ages 18 and 19 accounted for an additional 8% in 2014, the most recent data available.
Studies also have shown 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Do the math, and it’s obvious college athletes have been having — and will continue to have — abortions. 
Women ages 18 to 24 also are at an elevated risk for sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
“There’s just so many other reasons (to need an abortion), whether it’s the health of you as the woman who is pregnant or whether it’s the way that your child was conceived, you know, (if it was) without your permission,” said DiJonai Carrington, who played basketball at Stanford and Baylor before being drafted last year by the Connecticut Sun. 
“There’s just so many different layers to it.” 
Nope. The NCAA issued a pregnancy handbook in 2008, detailing obligations schools have to pregnant athletes. Athletes who become pregnant can’t lose their scholarship or be retaliated against, for example. 
But the handbook has never been updated, and there’s no indication the NCAA plans to update it now. The organization also hasn’t addressed what additional support should be provided to students in states where abortions are no longer allowed. 
Many schools have their own policies, but those aren’t much help, either. 
The University of Kentucky’s policy, for instance, says a pregnant athlete is to be educated on “all available options,” so she can make “decisions that she believes are in her best interest.” But abortion is now banned in Kentucky, and athletics spokesman Tony Neely said the school “has not made a formal campus communication regarding the Dobbs decision.” 
Clemson’s pregnancy policy says an athlete’s privacy “will be respected with strict confidentiality,” and provides resources for both adoption and abortion. Yet South Carolina, where Clemson is located, has a law being appealed that would ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. 
It’s not clear yet. 
The NCAA has a Student Assistance Fund to help cover unexpected expenses for athletes, which, in theory, could help a student obtain an abortion out of state. But the money is doled out by the individual schools, so each school can decide how it can — and can’t — be spent. 
Medical abortion — using the “abortion pill” or Plan C early in pregnancy — accounts for more than 50% of all abortions in the United States. But many states with restrictive abortion laws are targeting those, too. 
So-called “bounty laws” could have a chilling effect on assistant coaches and trainers, often the first people athletes go to when they’re in crisis. Texas and Oklahoma already have these laws, which offer the public at least $10,000 to successfully sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion, and other states are considering them. 
“How are you going to get assistant coaches if players come to you and say something and you’re not allowed to help them? I think hiring your staff, that’s going to be your issue,” said Muffet McGraw, the Hall of Fame former women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame. 
The decision was issued after the current freshman class committed to schools, so it’s too soon to say. But coaches and athletic administrators are trying to prepare themselves, with very little guidance on how they should do that. 


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