Billie Jean King’s abortion story offers window into life without Roe vs. Wade

VIDEO | 04:32
Billie Jean King discusses abortion

During a Los Angeles Times Book Club discussion featuring her memoir “All In,” Billie Jean King shared painful details about her abortion.


Billie Jean King, the tennis legend who shared her painful journey to getting an abortion in her memoir “All In,” joined other female athletes calling for the protection of women’s reproductive rights.

A draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion striking down abortion rights codified in the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling was published by Politico Monday night, triggering responses from activists around the country. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. confirmed the authenticity of the document that could still change as justices deliberate, with an official ruling expected to be handed down in two months.

King, a Long Beach native, joined a chorus of athletes who opposed the potential erosion of reproductive protections.


“A woman has had the right to make decisions for her body since #RoeVWade in 1973,” King posted on Twitter. “If Roe falls, millions of Americans would lose access to critical reproductive care. It is vital that we do all we can to protect this legislation.”

Fellow tennis legend Martina Navratilova also vented on Twitter, posting, “Also a worthy reminder — other than [Justice Amy] Coney Barrett, all the men taking away [women’s] rights to choose are well past the age when women could actually get pregnant. So once again — old, mostly white, men are deciding [women’s] fate. I hate the whole lot …”

As she releases her memoir “All In,” tennis icon Billie Jean King discusses her career, her causes and “living truthfully.”

Aug. 17, 2021

The Washington Mystics’ Natasha McCloud wrote on her Twitter account, “The constitution was written by white men. For white men.”

She added, “America is NOT pro life. They’re pro birth. We still pay women less than men. Not every woman has access to health care. We don’t focus on fixing and building our education system. Price of housing …. disgusting.”

King’s position was shaped by her experience having an abortion in California before the Roe vs. Wade ruling. During an August 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Club interview with Times executive Sports editor Chris Stone, she discussed the decision.

“I got pregnant and I just was so confused and in such a bad way, and I think a baby is the most important responsibility in the world and I just didn’t feel like this was ... I just could not do this,” she said, noting she had already requested a divorce from her husband and shared with him that she was attracted to other women. Her husband, who she said she loved and often called her best friend, declined to grant the divorce.


In her memoir, King wrote about California’s policy of allowing abortions before Roe vs. Wade if they were for therapeutic reasons and performed in a hospital. Her husband, Larry, joined her explaining to a committee why she needed the procedure.

Abortion activists on both sides were preparing for an election battle, but the leak of Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe vs. Wade has sped up plans.

May 3, 2022

“Any woman wanting an abortion had to go before a medical committee first and explain why she believed her pregnancy would ‘gravely impair’ her ‘physical or mental health,’” King wrote. “So that’s what I had to do. Explaining to a panel of ten or fifteen strangers why I qualified for an abortion was probably the most degrading thing I’ve ever experienced. When Larry and I walked into the room and saw them looking back at us, Larry said to me under his breath, ‘This is ridiculous.’”

King is now among many athletes lobbying for support of abortion rights.

The Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike and USC swimmer Lauren Blair joined Megan Rapinoe, Sue Byrd and more than 500 other current and former high school, college and pro athletes who signed an amicus brief in support of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the respondent in the case the Supreme Court is now reviewing that could nullify Roe vs. Wade.