The trans community has long experienced attacks related to access to reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, and are being overlooked in the current attack on Roe vs. Wade.
[By Amalia Laventure; Illustration by Sofia Belen Criswell
The reversal of Roe v. Wade has gravely impacted reproductive rights in the United States, particularly for the trans and the gender-diverse community. Reproductive justice and access to abortions is not a women’s issue. Transgender men, two-spirit, intersex, gender expansive, gender non-conforming, nonbinary and other trans individuals all need access to abortion.
Often excluded from conversations on abortion, the trans community has long experienced attacks related to access to reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare. Reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare is a fundamental necessity.
For trans youth, access to gender-affirming care that properly informs them of their right to personal choice is a matter of life or death, given that 25 to 30 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide in their lifetime. However, access to care is difficult.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, over 50 percent of respondents cited having to teach their medical providers about transgender care, and 19 percent of respondents reported refusal of medical care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status, with even higher numbers among transgender people of color.
With an extreme lack of trans-related care sites available, reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood provide those essential services. These services include; access to hormone therapy, resources for gender-affirming therapists and access to gender-inclusive services for youth. The closure of reproductive health care facilities cut off the trans community from accessing abortions as a form of vital, gender-affirming healthcare.
In a video called “Abortion Saved my Life” with Translash Media, Cazembe Murphy Jackson spotlights this intersection between reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare in his own experience with abortion as a Black transman in Atlanta, Georgia. “I think it’s important to include trans and queer and non-binary folks in the conversations about abortion access … It’s a lot of stigma around abortion,” Jackson said in the video. “There’s a lot of stigma around being trans, but neither one of those means we don’t exist.”
This lack of care especially affects trans communities in the South, as Jackson speaks to, which has the largest concentration of trans youth and adults in the U.S. Nine of the U.S. Southern states have instituted near-total bans on abortion, making access to reproductive and gender-affirming care extremely difficult. Arkansas and Alabama have enacted bans on trans-affirming care for youth, with Texas and Florida slated to follow.
Gender and reproductive services go hand in hand and denying these services to the trans community further exacerbates the extreme gap in healthcare. It should come as no surprise that the funders of the anti-abortion movement — the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Liberty Council — are also leaders of the anti-trans movement. In an interview with Radio Teco News, Nichole Santamaria, Executive Director of El/La Para Translatinas said. “The hatred is the same. Against women, against the gender-diverse community. Transphobia has a high component of misogyny, a high component of anti-bodily autonomy.”
Cited as an attack on bodily and gender autonomy, this reversal of Roe v. Wade is only one of the hundreds of pieces of anti-trans legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. The Human Rights Campaign has marked 2021 as the worst year in recent history for the attacks on LGBTQIA+, with 2022 said to surpass. The right to continue or end a pregnancy, to use hormones/hormone blockers and to access gender-affirming surgeries, are rights that should belong to the individual, not the government. The repeal of abortion rights, coupled with anti-trans legislation at an all-time high, shows that the fight for reproductive justice is part of the larger fight for bodily autonomy.
From the forced sterilization of Black women in North Carolina and Latina women in California to the sterilization of people in ICE detention facilities to the denial of gender-affirming care for trans youth, the right to bodily autonomy has been violated for marginalized communities. Reproductive justice not only consists of abortion, but access to prenatal care, STD testing centers, and affordable care. A study by Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in three low-income women rely on clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, to get contraception. They also found that this was their only form of healthcare for some women.
Reproductive justice is gender justice. These two movements are deeply interconnected, both by their supporters and their opponents. The Heritage Foundation works to “support legislation that protects the freedom of all Americans, including both individuals and institutions, to think, speak, and act according to their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there are only two sexes.”
SB 184, a suspended bill in Alabama, would criminalize doctors and parents who help trans youth pursue access to gender-affirming care. Right-wing advocates such as the Heritage Foundation are attempting to define what an “American Family” should look like — cisgender, white, rich, and Christian – by denying trans communities, particularly vulnerable youth, access to healthcare alongside restricting access to reproductive healthcare. This deeply marginalizes trans communities of color, who exist at the intersection of these attacks.
The continuous fight for reproductive justice and abortion access, in the wake of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, must include gender justice. These attacks on abortion rights are attacks on the trans community; affronts to gender identity and bodily autonomy. When the state and right-wing institutions are allowed to determine who accesses care, our most marginalized are largely at risk.