WNBA Players to Get Free Fertility Testing, Support
(Bloomberg) -- WNBA players will get free access to fertility testing services, furthering the leading position of women’s basketball in providing health and family benefits in sports.
Modern Fertility, a San Francisco-based unit of digital health company Ro, will provide hormone tests and fertility support to all players as part of an arrangement organized by Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike, now in her second three-year term as president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. She wants to break assumptions that women athletes can’t have kids until they retire.
“Some players feel as though they can’t plan a family until after they’re done playing because we use our bodies as our livelihood,” Ogwumike said in an interview. “And some players don’t have the information available to them.”
The tests, which can be administered at home or at a lab, provide personalized reports and include additional consultations with fertility nurses. Ro acquired Modern Fertility, founded in 2017, earlier this year for more than $225 million.
Personal health in women’s sports has been in the spotlight in recent months, with high-profile athletes such as tennis superstar Naomi Osaka and gymnastics legend Simone Biles speaking out on the topic.
The WNBA and its players union came to a new collective bargaining agreement last year in a deal that raised compensation and added benefits including paid maternity leave, a child-care stipend and accommodations for nursing moms in the workplace. Veteran players now also have access to reimbursement for family expenses, such as adoption, surrogacy and egg freezing.
Ogwumike sees reproductive health as the next frontier for equality in sports. Family planning has been a vital issue for the WNBA’s players throughout the league’s 25-year history, with athletes facing trade-offs between their careers and motherhood. All-star Skylar Diggins-Smith played the 2018 season for the Dallas Wings while pregnant without telling anyone.
The Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart is the most prominent star to become a mother since the new CBA came into force, though she had her eggs frozen in 2019, before the agreement was struck. Her daughter, Ruby, was born via surrogate in August a day after Stewart helped the U.S. women’s basketball team win gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ogwumike, who has spent her entire career with the Sparks since being drafted with the top pick in 2012, told players in a letter sent this week that they’re sending shock waves through sports and “the world has taken notice.”
“I think women really flipped this on its head, especially as it comes to stigmas and societal norms with expectations thrust around working women having to make this decision between family and career,” said Ogwumike. “Everyone’s journey is different.”
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