Billie Jean King Needed Hospital Approval and Husband's Signature to Get an Abortion: 'Degrading'

Stars at Wimbledon
ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP via Getty Images Billie Jean King
While the Supreme Court debated the legality of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban - and the lifting of the Roe v. Wade discusses the universal right to abortion - thinks Billie Jean King about the difficulties she faced in 1971 in obtaining an abortion.
The tennis legend, who first reported an abortion in an interview in 2018, was 27 and the top ranked tennis player in the world when she discovered she was pregnant after nearly throwing up on the court during a game. King, who has since come out gay and is now married to longtime partner Ilana Kloss, was then married to college sweetheart Larry King but their "marriage has been shaky for years," she wrote in a comment for The Washington Post .
Still, the couple "agreed that a woman has the right to decide if and when to get pregnant," she said. "He said he would support every decision I made."
King said she chose an abortion not because of her tennis career but because "our lives were so complicated and unpredictable that I couldn't imagine raising a child in such chaos".
RELATED: 30 Celebrities Who Shared Their Abortion Stories to Help Women Feel Less Alone
King was "lucky" to be living in California at the time, she said, where abortions were already legal, two years before Roe v's decision. Wade from 1973. However, she had to prove that the procedure was "therapeutic" and had to be performed by a doctor in a hospital.
"Anyone seeking an abortion had to get approval from a hospital committee - that is, tell a panel of strangers why they believed their pregnancy would 'seriously affect' their physical and mental health," she said. "Arguing in front of a dozen or so people I had never met about why I qualified for an abortion remains one of the most humiliating experiences of my life."
RELATED VIDEO: Woman whose conception sparked the Roe v. Wade case breaks the silence: "I'm keeping a secret, but I hate it"
In addition, King said, the law required "humiliation" for her husband to sign a consent form authorizing her abortion.
"Men remained accountable not only for financial matters, but even for the right to rule my own body," she said.
King pointed out that the hoops she had to jump through to achieve an abortion were "like it was where abortion was legal".
RELATED: Megan Rapinoe, Diana Taurasi, and 500 other athletes urge the Supreme Court to protect abortion law
"Those who were less fortunate than me were forced to either continue an unplanned pregnancy or put their health at risk with an illegal abortion - if they could find a provider," she added.
King said that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, women will lose control of their own health, and with it the progress they have made in the work for economic equality.
"When we lose the ability to control our bodies and our futures, so many of the accomplishments that women have made are undone," she said. "At stake is not just humiliation and injustice, but the right to self-determination and equal opportunities, which would coincide with Roe."
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Billie Jean King
American tennis player

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