Olympic champion Felix calls U.S. abortion rights rollback 'shocking'

LOS ANGELES, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in track and field history, on Sunday called the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling ending the constitutional right to an abortion "shocking" and a "step back" for women.

The sprinter, who won a U.S. record 11 Olympic medals before hanging up her spikes after competing in her final World Championships last month, has also been a champion for working mothers and said she was blindsided by the decision.

"Any time rights are being taken away, that's shocking," Felix told Reuters before taking part in sports apparel company Athleta's "Race for Change" in her native Los Angeles.

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"We're trying to move forward and not take steps back, so there is more fight left. I think we have to prepare for that and keep doing the work."

In late June, the United States' highest court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that recognised the right to an abortion, enabling states to ban the procedure and upending nearly a half century of precedent.

"You just don't expect something like that to happen at this point in time but it's where we're at," she said, adding that she planned to use her platform to advocate for women's rights.

Under sunny Southern California skies, Felix posed in the starting blocks alongside her three-year-old daughter Camryn before the pair walked the track holding hands in a heartwarming scene.

But Felix worries her daughter and the next generation of female athletes will be hamstrung by the Supreme Court decision.

"So many people have fought for those rights and I want my daughter to grow up in a world where there is a true sense of equality," Felix said.

"I think we're very far away from that."

PAY CUT

Felix made headlines in 2019 when she revealed that she had split from Nike after her long-time sponsor cut her pay after she got pregnant. That led her to sign with Athleta and launch her own running shoe company, Saysh.

Since then Felix said raising a child had opened her eyes to the myriad challenges facing working mothers - issues she is taking steps to address.

"A lot of the landscape needs to change," she said.

Felix's charitable race on Sunday included free on-site child care services and a lactation pod, and she hoped it could serve as a blueprint for events in the future - perhaps even in the biggest event of them all.

"It would be a dream to have child care at the Olympic Games for all of the athletes competing," she said.

"That's something I'm definitely going to be working on."

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Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris

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Thomson Reuters

Los Angeles-based sports reporter who interviews the most impactful athletes and executives in the world. Covers breaking news ranging from the highs of championship victories to the lows of abuse scandals. My work highlights the ways in which sports and the issues of race, gender, culture, finance, and technology intersect.