In honor of National Women and Girls in Sports Day, Independent Women’s Law Center held a “Let’s Protect Female Athletes” press call this morning, to discuss the urgent need to protect female athletes. Speakers included Senator Joni Ernst; Senator Tommy Tuberville; Senator Mike Lee; Senator Marsha Blackburn; “Margaret, a former college athlete and mother of a swimmer who has competed against Lia Thomas; Donna de Varona, Olympic swimmer and co-founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation; Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center; and Carrie Lukas, president of Independent Women’s Forum.

Last month, in response to the Thomas controversy, the NCAA washed its hands of responsibility for determining who is eligible to participate in women’s athletics, placing responsibility for sport-specific testosterone levels in the hands of the individual athletic governing bodies, such as USA Swimming. IWLC and today’s speakers are urging USA Swimming to protect female athletes.

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For more information on this issue, and to contact USA Swimming, click here.



Good morning and welcome to Independent Women’s Law Center’s Let’s Protect Female Athletes Press Call. Some of our speakers will be available for questions from the press at the end of the call. As a reminder, today’s call is being recorded. I’d like to introduce Independent Women’s Forum president, Carrie Lukas. Carrie?

Carrie Lukas:

Thank you, and thanks to those of you on the line who are joining us on National Women and Girls in Sports Day to discuss the urgent need to protect female athletes. My name is Carrie Lukas, and I’m president of Independent Women’s Forum. For those not familiar with our organization, which this year celebrates 30 years, you can read more at Independent Women’s Forum is the leading national women’s organization dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but that actually enhance people’s freedoms, opportunity, and wellbeing. Thanks to our panelists who are joining us today to speak about the growing threat to women’s sports.

This threat isn’t just hypothetical. It is happening over and over again across the country and in multiple sports. Lia Thomas, a senior on the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team is only the most recent example. The swimmer, who stands more than six feet tall, previously competed on the men’s team as Will Thomas. This year, as Lia, Thomas has not surprisingly shattered women’s records. This isn’t fair. In fact, it’s discrimination against women. We are here today to stand up for female swimmers, first and foremost, for their right to speak out without the fear of gaslighting, retaliation or censorship, but also for their right to be recognized as women with distinct physical realities and legal rights.

Here to discuss this important topic, is a fantastic lineup of lawyers, lawmakers, and former athletes. First, it’s my pleasure to welcome Jennifer Braceras, the director of Independent Women’s Law Center. Jennifer is an attorney and a former commissioner with the US Commission on Civil Rights and an expert on Title IX and federal anti-discrimination law. Jennifer will speak briefly, then introduce our other speakers.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you so much, Carrie. Thank you for hosting this important event. Almost 50 years ago, Title IX transformed sports by guaranteeing women the right to equal athletic opportunities. Shockingly, after half a century of progress, women are now, in the name of inclusion, being asked to take a backseat to male-bodied athletes. Last month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association washed its hands of responsibility for determining who is eligible to participate in women’s athletics, asking the governing bodies of each sport to set sports-specific testosterone levels for female athletes.

Last night, USA Swimming announced its guidelines, setting testosterone levels for women’s sports lower than previous IOC guidelines, but still significantly higher than those of the average female. It is now unclear what the future holds for Lia Thomas’s ability to compete in league and NCAA championships. But it is important to remember that this is not just about Lia Thomas and it is not just about testosterone. In fact, a comprehensive review of scientific literature released last fall by Independent Women’s Law Center reveals that testosterone suppression does not eliminate the athletic advantage that postpubescent men have over females, and it cannot level the proverbial playing field.

The NCAA’s insistence that there is some way to level the playing field between postpubescent males and females simply denies science. Moreover, the focus on artificially leveling the playing field by suppressing male strength, does nothing to protect women’s equal opportunity to compete in the first place. Allowing biological males to compete as athletes on women’s teams with limited rosters, means that there are inevitably fewer spots on those teams for females and perhaps less playing time or scholarship money for those females who do make the team. In head-to-head competitions, allowing male-bodied athletes to race women means there are fewer lanes open to females.

So even if one could, theoretically, create fair competitions between male and female bodies, female athletes still lose opportunities. And as Margaret will attest in her remarks, they lose much more. Because when young women are forced to compare and measure their bodies and worth against male bodies, they lose self-confidence and their very conception of what it means to be a strong woman. To be clear, this is not, as some have suggested, a bigoted effort to prevent 10-year-old boys and girls from exercising or playing sports together. This is about fairness and equal opportunity for women in high-level competitive sport. And so while we applaud Lia Thomas’s courage and support her right to live a life free of unjust discrimination, we call on our nation’s leaders today to protect Title IX and stop discrimination against female athletes by prohibiting the participation of postpubescent males in women’s athletic competitions. Thank you.

At this point, it is my distinct honor to welcome United States Senator Joni Ernst, to the call. Senator Ernst has represented the state of Iowa in the United States Senate since 2015. She is the first woman elected to represent Iowa as well as the first female combat veteran elected to the United States Senate. Senator Ernst is a true champion of women’s rights and a leader who is fighting to protect women’s sports. Senator Ernst, thank you so much for joining us on National Women and Girls in Sports Day. The floor is yours.

Senator Joni Ernst:

Oh, well, thank you so much for the kind introduction, and of course, thank you to the Independent Women’s Forum for inviting me to be part of today’s event. Today, as we come together to recognize National Girls and Women in Sports Day, there is no question that female athletes have fought harder and overcome greater odds to be able to compete at a higher level. Since the passage of Title IX, women’s participation in sports, whether that’s from high school athletics to the Olympics, has continued to increase. And that’s a good thing. It’s one of the many incredible ways women continue to break barriers and make enormous strides.

But the harsh reality is, the ability for women and girls to have an equal opportunity to win and to merely compete in sports is being threatened more and more every day. I firmly believe no one should be discriminated against and that everyone should be treated with dignity, respect, and privacy, but we cannot ignore the biological differences in men’s and women’s athletics. To do so would threaten a woman’s physical safety and limit their opportunities for athletic success and scholarships.

As a mom, protecting women and girls is something I am passionate about. It’s why I’m working with Senators Mike Lee, Marsha Blackburn, and Cindy Hyde-Smith on the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. Our effort will protect the integrity of women’s sports and ensure female athletes have an equal opportunity to win and compete in sports. To echo the calls that we have heard so far today, and from so many female athletes around the world, allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports puts our female athletes at a competitive disadvantage. It threatens to erase the incredible progress women and girls have made in sports. That is why our female athletes need to be protected and we should ban biological males from competing against women.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet with Team USA world champion track athlete, Cynthia Monteleone, and her daughter, Margaret O’Neal, a high school track athlete, to hear firsthand how they were placed at a disadvantage in competing against male-bodied athletes. Through my conversation with Cynthia and Margaret, and it was just fascinating, it was clear that protecting female athletes isn’t just about ensuring women have the opportunity to win in their sport. It’s also about ensuring they have the opportunity to compete in the first place.

Women have fought long and hard to participate and succeed in sports. For girls, youth sports participation is linked to improved physical and mental health academic achievement, an increased confidence and body esteem. Failing to provide female athletes with an equal opportunity to compete and win will ultimately force them at all levels to lose out. So, thank you again for having me join today’s important conversation. And in the Senate, I will keep fighting to protect our female athletes and uphold the integrity of women’s sports. Thanks so much.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you, Senator Ernst, and thank you for all you’re doing to speak out for female athletes who feel silenced on this issue.

Senator Joni Ernst:

Of course.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Really appreciate it. Next up is Senator Tommy Tuberville, who has represented the state of Alabama in the United States Senate since 2021. Many of you know him simply as Coach, as he spent the greater part of 40 years as a college football coach, including as head coach at the University of Mississippi and head coach at Auburn. Coach started his career coaching high school football, as well as both boys’ and girls’ basketball. He is a leader in the fight to protect women’s sports. Welcome to the call, Coach Tuberville. Do we have Senator Tuberville?

Speaker 2:

It appears we do not have Senator Tuberville on the line.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Okay. We will move ahead and get him when he can join the call. We will next welcome Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith from the great state of Mississippi. Like Senator Ernst, Senator Hyde-Smith is also the first woman to represent her state in Washington, DC, where she has served since 2018. Senator Hyde-Smith, a former high school basketball player, is an original co-sponsor of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, and we are thrilled to have her with us here today to celebrate National Women and Girls in Sports Day. Senator, the floor is yours.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith:

Well, thank you so much. It is a great opportunity to discuss protecting women in women’s sports. This is very, very important to me and most Mississippians. Women have long been underrepresented on the playing field. And before the passage of Title IX in 1972… And in 1972, I’m sure that no one would’ve ever believed were even having this conversation today. But before that, girls and women did not have the same opportunity that boys and men did. It’s just the fact. When it came to athletics and specifically with the collegiate athletic scholarship, it did not happen. Title IX changed that, and I assure you, it changed it for the better. But allowing male-bodied athletes to compete against females in sports will totally undermine girl sports. It will undo all of that.

The activists who are pushing to open positions on women’s teams to biological men are doing nothing but undermining girls’ competitiveness and the fundamental fairness of all women’s sports competitions. By ignoring the difference between biological females and biological males, we will inevitably deprive women and girls of spots on sports team rosters, of playing time during games, and the scholarships. Pretending biological females and trans women are the same for all purposes, including sports, will effectively move girls and women backwards rather than forward.

Recently, we have seen firsthand how allowing men to participate in women’s sports sets them back. We’re seeing that at the University of Pennsylvania where Lia Thomas, who we’ve talked about, a biological male and transgender swimmer, competes with these biological women. That threatens to break the records just set by Olympic gold medalist women. I know the importance of sports for females. My mom was an athlete. She competed, she participated in sports. I did. My daughter did. In Mississippi, we have the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame that we are very proud of so we can showcase these men and women. We know how it develops strong character and confidence. I am very pleased that my state of Mississippi enacted the Mississippi Fairness Act. It requires athletes to compete in the division of their biological sex at birth. I fully support that law and will continue to fight to protect athletic opportunities for women and girls. No one should face discrimination. At the same time, female athletes have the right to compete in a setting that opens doors for them rather than closes doors for them.

We just can’t sit around and do nothing. We cannot rest until every girl can compete fairly and on an even playing field. I truly appreciate this opportunity to voice this and will continue to work in any capacity that I can to protect these female athletes. Truly appreciate the opportunity for this call today.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you. And we truly appreciate your participation, Senator. I believe we do have Senator Tuberville on the line now, is that correct?

Senator Tommy Tuberville:

Yes, ma’am.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Oh, thank you so much for joining us, Coach. We really appreciate your insights, both as a policymaker and somebody who’s been actively involved in the world of sports for many decades. So please proceed, the floor is yours.

Senator Tommy Tuberville:

Well, thank you very much. Thanks for having me on. I’m Tommy Tuberville from Alabama. And, as you heard, been coaching, had coached for 40 years, retired a few years ago to run for Senate, and I guess now that there’s 99 senators up here and one coach. But I understand there’s some athletes on the call, so that most of you might be a little bit familiar with me.

Before I begin, I want to thank the International Women’s Forum for hosting this event. It’s so important for players discussing the importance of Title IX protections, especially on National Girls’ and Women’s Sports Day. Back in the ’70s when I first started coaching, I coached junior girls basketball. And back then it was single digits in high schools across the country of girls playing sports because it was not an equal playing field for funding, athletic facilities, and it wasn’t really pushed. And now, you have a majority of the girls across the country that play some type of sport.

So that’s how important Title IX has been. It’s one of the great things that the federal government has done. It’s made it equal and given young girls an opportunity to stay in sports and move up and then have, hopefully, their scholarship paid for by sports.

Now, it went from almost zero scholarships in women’s sports in the 1970s to now a huge number of 60 to 70%, so it’s so important. Title IX has been so important to women and small girls who give them an opportunity to compete.

As I said, I coached football and basketball. And one of my highlights of coaching was coaching girls when I first got into coaching. And it was a lot of fun, and I understood the importance of the opportunities for young girls to be in some kind of sports because of the things that you learn.

Because it’s not just about winning and losing, it’s about giving the opportunity to do something along with other girls or other teammates to win. And then, you have to understand how to compete with each other and how to handle the wins and how to handle the losses. So sports are equalizers, whether you’re rich or you’re poor or what background you come from.

And I’ve had the opportunity in my coaching career to coach people from urban areas, from rural areas, rich, poor, middle class, different races, and it has been a lot of fun. And I’ve seen a lot of people really grow and become much better students, better people, and have success coming out sports. And so, that’s the reason it was so important that title IX was implemented.

And again, now we’re running into a situation here where we’re having problems with Title IX. We’re having a lot of the same people that fought for Title IX now are fighting for transgender athletes to be able to compete in women’s sports. And that’s totally wrong. It’s all about fairness. It’s all about the opportunity to give girls a chance, not just to compete, but to win.

And the recent decision by the NCAA is so disappointing, and I’ve dealt with NCAA for years. They made some good decisions, but this is a very bad decision, basically to kick the can down the road. The NCAA caved to the progressive agenda for fear of backlash and getting canceled. And that’s not what our country is about. Our country is about fairness and giving everybody the right and opportunity.

They said their decision is in the interest of fairness. But let me be clear, by including biological males in women’s athletics, fairness is impossible. The fight to protect Title IX will continue. A lot of us up here on Capitol Hill will lead that fight. We need more people to get into this fight. We need to continue to let female athletes take home the gold.

And if you look in the Olympics now, of women’s sports, the United States of America is now one of the top in women’s athletics because of Title IX. And now, we do not need to turn around and go the opposite direction of this.

So here in the halls of the Senate, we’ll continue to talk about it, try to convince people of the right thing to do. I’ve got to leave this call, but I just want to say that a lot of my members of my team will be on this call. They’ll stay here. We want to hear directly from you, those of you that have questions.

Again, we’re going to fight for this. This is something I believe in. This is what America’s about. America is about giving people opportunity. Through education and through sports, there’s been a lot of great stories and a lot of great leaders built from this avenue. So this does not need to come to a halt, so we’re going to fight for you. So thanks again for having me on, and again, we’re all going to keep up the good fight. Thank you very much.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you, Senator. And we look forward to working with you on this important issue in the months to come. Next up, I’d like to welcome Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Senator Lee has led 13 of his colleagues in introducing The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, federal legislation that would restrict women athletic competitions to females. Thank you for joining us, Senator Lee.

Senator Mike Lee:

Oh, thanks so much. Really, I’m excited today to be joining this call with all of you for a few reasons. First of all, because it’s just a great chance to celebrate women and girls in sports. All these athletes, no matter their age and no matter their experience, deserve a really big shout-out for all their hard work and their dedication and their successes.

We’ve got some amazing athletes in this country, including many women athletes, people like Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson, who are both long track speed skaters from the Salt Lake City area. And it’s significant that women competing in Olympics have achieved so many things. In fact, 45% of the athletes competing in this year’s Winter Olympics are women, which is a record high. So shout out to all of those who are willing to put themselves out there and to compete, and in so doing, better the sport and better the competition.

And, secondly, I’m really thankful to everyone on this call and all their efforts to continue to support women and girls and to work to protect their ability to fairly compete fairly against other women and girls. Now, let’s be clear, regardless of the many ways in which one might seek to self-define and which one might seek to live one’s life, there are some natural and indisputable limits to self-identification. Safety, security, fairness, and decency require us to acknowledge that.

Biological men can request that others refer to them as if they’re women, but they can’t impose these personal preferences on others, nor can they hijack women and girls’ sports in defiance of the naturally occurring and common understanding of biological distinctions that end up coming into play with regard to fair competitions for female athletes.

The immutable characteristics that Lia Thomas’s biology, male biology, is something that puts female competitors at a disadvantage relative to Lia Thomas. And that’s a fact that I honestly believe most women and most men recognize. The inclusion of biological males in sports that have been designated and set aside for women and girls actually oppresses female athletes by forcing them to stand on the sidelines and watch as their chances of winning, of competing, or even participating can end up being eliminated because of these immutable characteristics that accompany someone with a male body.

No matter how many hormones a biological male might take, the vast majority of the time, a biological male competes against a female, assuming everyone in question is in good athletic condition and otherwise competitive within their respective sexes, the biological male is going to have an unfair advantage.

So my bill, you mentioned, and thanks for mentioning that, called The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, is something that would strengthen and protect the integrity of female sports. It would provide that any recipient of federal funding that operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities, and permits a biological male to participate in women’s sporting events would be in violation of Title IX. And I want to thank Senators Ernst, Blackburn, Tuberville, and Hyde-Smith for joining me on this effort.

Allowing biological men to take the place of women on sports teams would diminish nearly 50 years of progress on women’s sports in America. And this would be unfortunate as it would tend to limit opportunities for female athletes to compete and to succeed on an amateur and on a professional level.

And so, look, as a father, as a husband, as a person, I want to make sure that everyone, and especially all women and girls, can have every chance to achieve success on and off the field, in and out of any sport that they might choose, and I think this is a necessary step. Thank you very much.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you so much for participating, Senator. Now, we’re going to hear from a mother of a college swimmer who has competed against Lia Thomas. We are calling her Margaret, although that is not her real name. Margaret has requested anonymity in order to protect her daughter. I think you’re all going to be very interested in what she has to say. Margaret, go ahead. You may begin.


Thank you, Jennifer. I have always tried to teach my daughters and my sons, women are amazing. We can do things no man is capable of. Our bodies were formed around the ability to create and carry new life, but we are in no way limited to that value.

We are a capable and powerful force of more than half of the world’s population, but we have been marginalized and devalued over all history, simply because of the physical constraints of our sex. Now, after decades of progress, the organizations in charge of policy are using the spirit of inclusivity to distribute pain as they wash their hands of the value of women.

Sex-based categories in competitive sports have been a huge part of women’s success in overcoming marginalization. It is no surprise that the rise of women’s sports has coincided with the rise of women’s voices, status, and contributions. A female champion, a female athlete is a symbol of power, an inspiration, and a source of strength. Alongside a female leader in business or politics, a female athlete is a chance for women to see their potential, to know they are worthy of reward and recognition. We cannot strip this away.

Competition is how we find our physical limits. It is an invitation to bring your absolute personal best and match it with the personal best of others in a fair and clean contest. Bringing a body forward to compete that is intentionally enhanced or hindered is not in the spirit of that ethos.

When trans women compete against women, the idea is that a male body can be artificially limited by hormones. The question the governing bodies of sport are asking as they try to make their guidelines to include trans women is just how much do we need to impair a male performance to be equated to that of women?

This argument, this experiment is not empowering for women. It is damaging. It is deeply misogynistic and demeaning. We are not encumbered male bodies. We are female, and we should not have to fight for representation and reward physically against biology that does not compare to our own.

My daughter and so many other women have raced against Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, and Simone Manuel. These women are amazing specimens of female capability. No woman feels robbed of opportunity from their success. We celebrate it and aspire to it. Our daughters have now raised Lia Thomas as well. Lia, who was not an NCAA championship competitor against men, but is in competition with only Olympians against women. Lia, who has a male-built body aided by years of testosterone with unalterable attributes, win or lose, the physiological and hormonal advantages Lia has are not accessible or attainable for any biological woman. This is not a measure of female athleticism and ability. It is not something we can aspire to. It is a new standard women are being asked to measure up to, that of a hormonally influenced male body.

The race feels fixed. The rules feel wrong, weighted with concern and preference for this male body. The girls thought something would change. Surely everyone could see the divisions of men’s and women’s sports were not intended for the social constructs of women, meaning femininity, but rather women meaning sex. Instead, the schools have asked that their athletes be silent and governing bodies have doubled down. They have made statements condemning transphobia and discrimination, yet these positions and these races feel replete with sexism. The girls on these teams prepared emotionally for days, dreading the competition, trying to focus on themselves while knowing their schools and leaders did not have their best interest at heart. It has been a struggle for the young women to learn that they, once again, must be kind and welcoming while they participate in their own injustice. The tears they have cried are not tears of losing or hate, they’re tears of not knowing how to fight a system stacked against them and actively silencing them. They’re tears of frustration, lost opportunity, and a lost vision of what it means to be a respected, strong, and determined female athlete.

Since the news of Lia’s swimming has broken, I have received calls and messages from friends whose daughters are facing this exact issue in soccer, track, field hockey, ice hockey, swimming, and rowing. Women and girls at all ages are facing a new kind of sexism, and it threatens to steal their confidence, their places on the playing field, and their previously assumed right to equity. Lia, like all humans, deserves respect as an individual. However, sex-based rights and categories are not a buffet for those who would like to join our numbers but do not share in the biological basis of our burdens and our oppression. I will gladly fight for trans rights, but I will not fight for the abolition of sex. My biology, my daughter’s biology, and that of every female is not transphobic and it cannot be hate speech to assert that we are entirely different from males. Yet that is what these girls are learning and the damage of that message to them and to women everywhere is immeasurable.

I am asking our political leaders, the NCAA, the IOC, USA Swimming, FINA, and all governing bodies of sports to step up and recognize that inclusivity cannot be an accepted code word for discrimination on the basis of sex. We are harming women. We are damaging our girls. Thank you.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you so much, Margaret, for that emotional and personal testimony about what’s happening out there, and thank you to your daughter and her teammates and all of the other female athletes out there who have had to endure this and have done so bravely. I’m only saddened that they aren’t able to speak out themselves because of the culture that we live in, because of the discrimination they’ve faced by their own universities who haven’t let them speak out about this and who wouldn’t tolerate them speaking out against this.

We’re next going to hear from Donna de Varona, an Olympian, a pioneer, an Emmy award winning sports broadcaster who has worked tirelessly over many decades to promote and safeguard Title IX. I know that my own daughters have much to thank Donna for. She is a role model. She at the age of 18 was the youngest member of the 1960 Olympic games team in Rome in 1964 after setting 18 world records and fastest times in swimming. She captured two gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. At age 17 at the peak of her career, Donna retired because, at that time, young women did not have college athletic opportunities and were not offered college scholarships. In the mid-1970s, after the passage of Title IX, she joined forces with Billie Jean King and other elite female athletes to establish The Women’s Sports Foundation serving as its first president and chairman. She has served on various presidential commissions, councils and committees, and has been a consultant to the Senate during the passage of the 1978 Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. And we are thrilled to hear from her today. Thank you, Donna. You may begin.

Donna de Varona:

Thank you. It’s an honor to take part here today. It’s very difficult to articulate anything better than Margaret’s firsthand experience of how this misleading policy by the NCAA has led to the debate. On the onset, I am supportive of transgender individuals’ rights to jobs, to work. However, we must, as we have articulated, protect competitive separate sex sports for women. I emphasize competitive sport and not recreational, coed, or community-based programs. I also emphasize how important it is for all our young children to have access to fitness and sports opportunities. With every challenge over the years, sports organizations have adapted and opened up opportunities for many groups, such as Paralympians, Special Olympians, and more. With opportunities based on fairness, I am sure we can find a way for all of our young people to be included. However, in addressing women’s sports competition, we must protect this category.

Just this last summer, our women Olympians helped Team USA finish on the top of the middle count. Their collective performances would have placed our women in the top five middle count by country. Awesome performances. Their accomplishments are the result of years of progress because of the opportunities provided through Title IX. Today, as a nation celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day, it is important to recall that this day was inspired by Olympian Flo Hyman and supported by my organization, The Women’s Sports Foundation in cooperation with other organizations. A Title IX volleyball scholarship to the University of Houston had enabled her to fulfill her dream of getting an education as well as reaching for Olympic gold. In 1984, freshman winning Olympic silver during the Los Angeles Olympics, Flo, whose father once worked in the fields of the segregated south, came to Washington to address Congress about the importance of enacting the Civil Rights Restoration Act.

In 1984, Title IX had been weakened by the Supreme Court Grove City decision. Flo wanted to protect the opportunities that had been provided to her for future generations. In 1987, after her untimely death from Marfan’s Disease, her impassioned plea was rewarded with the passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act. And in her honor, Senator Packwood led a bipartisan effort to establish this day National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

As the first president of The Women’s Sports Foundation and as a once go-to Senate consultant, matters pertaining to Title IX and Olympic sport, I have lived through the challenges and setbacks to women’s competitive sports. Yes, I was here in the halls of Congress some 50 years ago lobbying to protect and support women in athletics. In 1972, the enactment of Title IX sparked a hard part cultural evolution. With sports scholarships available for the first time, female student-athletes benefited from newfound opportunities in higher education and in sport. When Title IX was enacted, only one in 27 girls played sports. Now two in five do. Studies confirm that women who participate in competitive sports are more likely to reach higher levels of education and have greater social mobility. They are less likely to engage in destructive behavior. They are sought after in the workplace as known hard workers and productive team members. In assessing how the opportunity to compete in sports impacts a women’s trajectory in life, an EY study confirmed that 94% of women who hold C-suite positions in corporations have participated in sports and a full 52% competed in college.

Indeed, without the tools sports provide us in navigating the competitive world in which we live, where would we be? I am often asked what are the biggest challenges to women’s sports, notwithstanding that after 50 years of Title IX, women still lose out on, listen to this, a billion dollars in the way of college scholarships, recruitment dollars, and access to facilities. Here are the threats. You’ve heard them. The cutting of Olympic sports by universities and colleges, leaving the fate of our girls and women athletes up to individual organizations, many of which do not have the resources or obligation to develop fair and science-based policies. After all, our athletes are developed under a myriad of organizations from community-based programs to private clubs, colleges, and universities. And finally, under current civil rights law and within the women’s competitive sports category, equating biological sex with gender identity.

As a parent of one swimmer who’s been impacted by transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ entry into the women’s competitive swimming category has told us today, allowing males who after puberty are allowed to compete head-to-head against cis women without science-based policies creates a world of consequences of trust, of loss of faith, of confusion. How do we collectively balance the playing field of sports? State by state legislation that calls for total exclusion of transgender individuals in all aspects of the sporting environment without specific policies is creating a battleground; or state by state legislation that calls for total inclusion without specific policies is unfair.

It is time to re infirm the progress that hasn’t been made under Title IX by safeguarding and protecting women’s competitive sport. It’s important that the federal legislation brings clarity to this space. I am currently a member of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group. We are eager to help in any way we can. In closing, I want to thank the senators on the call today and our speakers for their leadership on this issue. We hope as we celebrate this special day that in honor of Flo Hyman, a great Olympian, we can all work together to protect 50 years of progress under Title IX. Thank you.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you, Donna. And it is so important that we have federal legislation to deal with this because one of the things that’s happening now is a decentralization of policies. The NCAA could have set national policy. It did not. It has deferred and deflected and sent that obligation down to the individual sporting agencies, and that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough because there needs to be consistent rules for women and girls across sport. And it needs to be clear that in competitive athletics, post-pubescent males cannot be allowed to compete against women for all of the reasons that we’ve said. Because it’s unfair, because it takes away opportunities to compete, because it takes away scholarship money. And frankly, because it impacts the emotional health of the girls against whom they have to compete.

So this is a serious problem. People have said for years, that it’s insignificant, that we’re talking about a small number of people and that the harm is not real. That’s not true. The harm is vast. The harm is vast, even if it’s just one or two athletes who are being impacted. But the fact is it’s not. It’s multiple athletes across multiple sports. The threat is growing and it’s happening more and more with each passing month and year. And it’s important to recognize too, that this is not just about transgender athletes. In certain sports that are female sports, particularly at the college level, such as volleyball and field hockey, there are no male equivalent teams. These are teams that are for women. And there is a push under law to erase sex as a category and to allow males to join those teams where there’s no male counterpart. This is happening in the state of Massachusetts with field hockey. It’s happening all over the country in states that have provisions to their laws that replace sex with gender or that otherwise require men and women to be treated the same in all circumstances.

And this too takes away opportunities from women and girls. We need to address this as well. It’s not about transphobia. It’s not about bigotry. It’s not about preventing 10-year-old boys and girls from playing together on the soccer field. This is about protecting opportunities for women to compete as only single-sex sports can do. We are hoping to hear from Senator Marsha Blackburn. I’m not sure if she’s been able to join the call. Senator Blackburn, are you with us?

Senator Marsha Blackburn:

I am with you. Thank you so much for having me on and letting me join you for a few minutes today.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

It’s so great to have you. Just for those on the call who may not know, Senator Blackburn, represents the great state of Tennessee, and she like some of our other speakers today was the first woman to be elected to the United States Senate from that state. So we have a lot of firsts on the call here and the Senator has been a leader in the defense of women’s sports. And I’d like to ask her now to take the floor and give her insights into this important issue.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:

Yes. And I think as we celebrate this day, we all look back. It was 35 years ago. It was President Reagan who said, “Let’s step up and celebrate women and girls in sports and set aside a national day where we would recognize the achievements of female athletes.” And that is something that has continued and something that is really important to me.

And as you were saying earlier, you look at the NCAA not setting a standard and not standing up for women and their ability and their right to participate, to train, to participate, to win, to celebrate that success. And it is why my Senate colleagues and I are working to pass the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. And this is something that would make certain that women are fairly treated through this process.

And there is quite a bit of attention right now on the issue of women who are having to compete against biological males. And one of the reasons that we’re pushing back on this is because it is removing the opportunity of women who have trained long and hard to excel to get those first place and winning slots, to get those college scholarships, to get that recognition of being able to say they finished first. And we are going to continue to work on this as a fairness issue. And we appreciate that you’re taking the time today to call attention to this. And thank you for letting me join you for a few minutes today.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you so much, Senator.

Carrie Lukas:

Yes. Thank you. This is Carrie Lukas again, and I just wanted to wrap up by thanking Senator Blackburn for all your work on this issue and for standing up for women’s sports. And I’ve really enjoyed hearing from everyone. So often this issue is discussed in the abstract, but I think it’s really important for the media and the greater public to understand how this is actually affecting people, and particularly young women like Margaret’s daughter who have been discriminated against in order to make room for male-bodied athletes, such as Lia Thomas. Now some of our participants are able to answer questions. So if we can now open the floor for reporter questions.


You to ask a question, please press star one. Please state your name and affiliation once your line is open. Again, press star one to ask a question. And again, that is star one for questions. It appears there are no questions at this time.

Carrie Lukas:

Okay, wonderful. Well, that concludes today. We do have a question?



Carrie Lukas:



Go to our first question. Caller, please go ahead.

Valerie Richardson:

Hi, this is Valerie. Hi, this is Valerie Richardson with the Washington Times. I just had a quick question about USA Swimming’s rules issued yesterday. Do you think that the five nanomoles per liter testosterone standard is one that as far as I can tell, no transgender competitor has ever been able to meet? Is that good enough? Or do you think that they shouldn’t even be looking at testosterone levels?

Jennifer C. Braceras:

This is Jennifer Braceras. Look, I certainly think it’s progress in terms of leveling the playing field and making competition fair, but that’s not the whole issue. The issue is not just testosterone. It’s not just leveling the playing field. It’s opportunities to compete. And it’s very clear that if you allow a male-bodied athlete to compete on a woman’s team, that that’s one last female who has a spot on that team. Even if that person has lowered their testosterone levels to the point of normal female ranges, which this standard set by USA Swimming is not. It’s still above normal female ranges, which I believe some studies show are in the range of .12 to 1.9 nanomoles per liter.

So it’s still higher than the average female. It still allows them that competitive advantage, to say nothing of the advantages that puberty confers that cannot be taken away by testosterone suppression, such as height, wingspan, heart size, all of the other advantages and strengths that male puberty confers. So it may be in practice that the level they’ve set is so low that a male to female transgender athlete would not meet the standard. It would not be able to compete in women’s swimming, but it may still allow them a place on the team, which would take a spot from women. And it’s still a regulation that’s inconsistent with the regulations of other sporting bodies.

And it’s not a regulation, if you read it closely, that deals with all forms of competitive women’s sports. I think elite sport is defined very narrowly by USA Swimming. I’m not even clear whether it applies to college meets.

Donna de Varona:

[inaudible 00:52:35].

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Yes. Go ahead, Donna.

Donna de Varona:

Yeah, I mean, also in these policies, they will convene a group of medical experts, former athletes, and administrators. Even if the athlete meets the five-nanomole rule, they also will assess sex-linked advantages after puberty, such as height, weight, and all that. But I do defer to Jennifer in that it is unclear in this policy if they have dealt with age group swimming, where it’s very important to acknowledge that age group swimming, where athletes compete in age group categories help build confidence as an athlete transitions and builds confidence within that category. And currently, I didn’t really read anything that dealt with a transgender athlete competing in the girls category up until the age of 13.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Yeah. And I do think that the most important thing is that we protect and fortify Title IX. Because if you have a patchwork of policies from different sporting organizations and different states, you are slowly but surely undermining, and chipping away at the right conferred by Title IX to equal opportunity for women athletes. That is not a right that can be negotiated away by states or by specific sporting organizations. And we can’t let that happen. So we need federal legislation for a uniform policy to protect Title IX.

Donna de Varona:

Also, if you interpret under civil rights law that all laws under civil rights equate sex with gender ID in every category, then that is a huge threat to Title IX. Because then there would be no … barrier to entry for biological males to claim transgender status and enter the female category. And the reason why-

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Or even frankly, those who don’t claim transgender status, because it’ll undermine the very rationale for single-sex sport altogether.

Donna de Varona:

And it has to be very clear that the federal government will not take funding away from schools that continue to observe the original intent of Title IX. Title IX basically said you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. It did not include gender identity and that why it’s been so powerful in the women’s competitive sports space.

Valerie Richardson:

Thanks very much.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Thank you for your question.

Carrie Lukas:

Are there any additional questions?


Yes. We’ll take our next question. Please go ahead.

Tyler Olson:

Hi there, this is Tyler Olson from Fox News.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Hi there.

Tyler Olson:

I was just wondering if we’ve still got some of the lawmakers here on the call, what is it that we could potentially expect to see in Congress on this issue? Is there a chance of folks coalescing around some sort of legislation or might there be hearings or potentially roundtables like I know Republicans were doing on immigration and a few other issues last year?

Jennifer C. Braceras:

I don’t believe the senators are able to take calls, but if any are still on the line and would like to, I defer to them, and then I’ll try to answer if not. Okay. Yeah.

Donna de Varona:

May I say something first?

Jennifer C. Braceras:


Donna de Varona:

I think it’s progress. I think it’s progress that as an athlete and Title IX advocate and former Senate consultant, and I’ve been asked to testify at Title IX, that I was included in this conversation. There’s been a lot of work on legislation that it’s in committee, but it could be enhanced and I think it’s very important that we had this discussion and that in the future we can convene a round table with many of us that were on this call.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Yes, I agree. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Anybody who supports women’s rights, Democrat or Republican or Independent should support protecting women’s sports and protecting Title IX from encroachment. I think as it stands now, the parties are far apart on this issue, but that shouldn’t be the case. And there should be a way to get both parties to the table to talk about this and find a way to craft something that will protect female competition.

I thank the senators who were on this call for their leadership, for getting the ball rolling, for standing up for women’s sports in a way that many other members of Congress have not. And I’m hoping to see more join them in this discussion.


There are no further questions at this time.

Carrie Lukas:

Great. Well, thank you. That concludes today’s call in honor of National Women and Girls in Sports Day, hosted by Independent Women’s Law Center and Independent Women’s Forum. Please visit for more information and to read our work on this issue. For any follow-up questions for any of our speakers on today’s call, please email [email protected] that’s [email protected]. Thank you.


Concludes today’s call. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.