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NWSL commissioner: Abortion rights will figure into expansion decisions

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As the NWSL looks to expand, the league will consider the status of abortion and reproductive rights in prospective and current markets.

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman was asked Thursday whether the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which leaves the status of abortion rights up to individual states, will have an impact on the league’s expansion decisions. The league confirmed Wednesday that it plans to add two new teams in 2024.

The league will take reproductive rights into account in its expansion discussions, Berman said, and indeed will also look at where existing markets stand on reproductive rights as well.

“I think we have to look at that not just from an expansion perspective, but really even our current landscape,” Berman said. “And it’s one of the things that we’re actually currently analyzing, which is looking even at our current markets to see where we have some differentiation between our values and what we stand behind relative to where we have teams located currently, and what are the solutions we can put in place that we feel comfortable we can commit to and execute on. So certainly in the context of expansion, that would be part of the analysis.”

Abortion is banned or heavily restricted in at least 11 states following the Supreme Court’s decision, including Texas, home to the Houston Dash. Other bans could come in states such as Florida (Orlando Pride), Kansas (Kansas City Current) and North Carolina (North Carolina Courage), according to the Washington Post.

Other states such as California have taken steps to protect abortion rights.

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would protect women who travel to other states to access abortion care legally. The House passed two bills Friday seeking to ensure that women have access to abortions, but neither bill is expected to have the votes to pass through the Senate.

Portland Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby spoke out in June about the reversal of Roe v. Wade and how it would impact players in the NWSL. She also cited Griswold v. Connecticut, which guarantees the right to contraceptives. Justice Clarence Thomas argued in his concurring opinion on the Roe v. Wade reversal that the Court “should reconsider” its ruling in Griswold, among other cases.

“The overturn of Roe v. Wade directly impacts athletes that are on teams in markets in which abortion and certain reproductive healthcare procedures are now or will be illegal,” Bixby wrote. “It also impacts any player being traded into these markets.”