The WTA, the most successful professional league in the history of women’s sports, announced at the start of Week 2 of the U.S. Open that this year’s WTA Finals tournament will be held in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last week, we all witnessed Serena Williams’ last match at the U.S. Open at age 40. Her GOAT career wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t been able to determine when and how to start a family and, now, how to continue building that family. Women’s sports are the embodiment of discipline and power — an autonomy that women weren’t expected to possess or able to exercise in a professional capacity until the 1970s for the most part.
The women’s movement has led to women’s movement, and few were as big a part of that as Billie Jean King, the WTA’s founder. This is why it is strange and disappointing to see the WTA take this showcase event to Texas, which is in the process of setting women back and making it harder for transgender youth to get the care and support they need.
It’s the cruelty of the Texas anti-abortion laws that make this such a terrible place to host the WTA finals. Texas is the state that pioneered a program to incentivize people to sue someone they suspected was involved in helping someone get an abortion, and to receive up to $10,000 in damages from that person if they win in court.
It was a way of deputizing every citizen, of putting them on watch for teenagers and women and anyone who might become pregnant, and of making a conduit to health care and support personally liable. Because a person who is suing based on this law doesn’t have to be correct, and there are no damages for anyone who has to defend an unjust suit, the opportunity for mischief is obvious.
In Texas, there aren’t exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.
There are terrible instances where couples who are expecting a child that cannot be carried to term are unable to get the health care they need, where the laws of Texas supersede the advice of doctors, the well-being of the mother, and the simple kindness of letting a family grieve the loss of an anticipated addition. Texas Monthly tells Elizabeth Weller’s story, and there are certainly many more like her who don’t want their name out there for public consumption, and the vitriol it might generate on such a divisive issue.
These laws are so all-encompassing that some women and people of reproductive age and beyond are unable to get access to their prescriptive drugs. The Washington Post tells of Becky Hubbard, 46, who intends to undergo sterilization in order to access methotrexate, a drug that helps her autoimmune condition but can negatively affect a pregnancy. Hubbard lives in Tennessee, but women in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and other states are also finding their prescriptions restricted according to a Reuters report.
Of course, the WTA should take this into account when deciding where to host its Finals. There wouldn’t be modern women’s professional sports if not for reproductive choice. If those leagues don’t hold locations up to a certain standard when it comes to respecting bodily autonomy, who will?
The WTA is a league that made an incredibly principled stand when it came to China after Peng Shuai was detained before the Beijing Olympics. Peng had accused a Chinese official of sexual misconduct and assault on a social media post, but then the post was scrubbed and Peng was kept from contact with the WTA and friends. The WTA pulled tournaments out of China, including the WTA Finals. It’s why this year’s tournament needed a new location.
When the NFL’s arbiter comes out with an initial six-game suspension after Deshaun Watson was accused of sexual assault and harassing multiple massage therapists (which he denies), or lets Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s arrest for solicitation at a massage parlor go unremarked upon, it’s expected. When yet another football team floats the idea of hiring former Baylor football coach Art Briles, it’s not a surprise.
But et tu, WTA?
The league took a significant financial hit when it pulled out of China. But putting the Finals in a state that has been one of the most draconian when it comes to post-Roe law-making is not a good answer. Fans of a women’s league should be asked to economically boost a region that wants to require doctors to report parents who support their transgender children to child protective services.
Texas is one of the cruelest states when it comes to these laws. You’ve come a long way from having to take money from just anyone, Baby.