Reproductive health care for the LGBTQ community needs to be liberated from religiously motivated legislation on this 50th anniversary of LGBTQ Pride Month.
Abortion rights activism and advocacy tends to center on white, heterosexual, cisgender bodies. However, abortion rights are equally important to trans, non-binary, lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Trans and non-binary individuals can become pregnant, and comprehensive reproductive health care, including access to contraception and abortion, is vital. Additionally, LGBTQ individuals may still engage in sex with the opposite sex, and they are still at risk for being raped. Both situations can lead to unplanned pregnancies. In fact, studies have shown that lesbian youth are two to 10 times more likely to become pregnant than their heterosexual counterparts. Additionally, lesbian and bisexual women often have a higher risk of sexual assault. Therefore, abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue, too. However, TRAP laws and the Hyde Amendment jeopardize abortion care for the LGBTQ community.
Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, commonly known as TRAP laws, create unnecessary and restrictive barriers to pregnant people receiving time-sensitive abortion care. Hospital admitting privileges for physicians, costly facility modifications and excessive staffing requirements are just a few of the provisions that are not backed by medical evidence, only by anti-abortion policymakers.
The Hyde Amendment, initially passed in 1977, restricts federal funding for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the pregnant person’s life. This means that low-income individuals who receive Medicaid, as well as Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees, are ineligible to receive abortion care coverage. With abortion costing anywhere from $500 to $3,000, this restriction targets those who most need financial assistance.
Members of the LGBTQ community are particularly marginalized by this anti-abortion legislation. A report published by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that 22 percent of LGBTQ people in the United States live in poverty. In particular, transgender people and cisgender bisexual women have the highest poverty rates. The historic and systemic denial of civil rights can explain much of these inequalities.
For example, just this month the Trump administration reversed health care discrimation protections for LGBTQ people.This means that doctors, health care workers and hospitals can deny care to someone based on a person’s gender identity. At a time where 29 percent of transgender people have said that a doctor refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity, health care protections for LGBTQ people should be expanded, not eliminated.
Access to testing for sexually transmitted infections, preventative measures and HIV/AIDS medication are crucial to health care for LGBTQ people. Organizations like Planned Parenthood have traditionally provided robust LGBTQ services, such as education, support groups and resources. However, Planned Parenthood has been effectively pushed out from receiving Title X funding after nearly 50 years. This means that access to LGBTQ services will become further marginalized in the landscape of health care.
Additionally, religiously inspired restrictions on contraception uniquely impacts members of the LGBTQ community. For example, at first blush the pending Supreme Court case Little Sisters of the Poor v Pennsylvania appears to strictly be a question of whether or not an employer can deny an employee contraception coverage based on the employer’s religious beliefs. However, should the court rule in favor of religious exemption, it could set a precedent for further LGBTQ health care discrimination. For example, a gay male couple’s daughter could be denied contraception under her fathers’ health plans based on religious objection. Additionally, employers might be able to deny coverage for medication that reduces HIV transmission rates among gay and bisexual men because it goes against their religious beliefs. Indeed, concepts like so-called religious liberty can have life-endangering consequences for LGBTQ people.
Reproductive justice is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. There are no exceptions for LGBTQ folks. As abortion care and contraception continues to be ensnared in the religious motivations of legislators and employers, secular activism and advocacy for LGBTQ rights is more necessary than ever.
Barbara Alvarez is from Madison, Wis., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a Ph.D. in library and information sciences with a minor in gender and women’s studies. Alvarez was a major winner in last year’s FFRF essay competition for graduate students, writing about the bible’s role in the abortion battle. She is FFRF’s first Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern, a program set up to memorialize FFRF’s principal founder, who was an early abortion rights activist and author of the book Abortion is a Blessing.