Access to Reproductive Healthcare and Support is a Queer Rights Issue

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Unless you’ve managed to avoid the news headlines over the past few months (and who could blame you?),you’ll know that reproductive rights are under attack in the United States. On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, a legal decision introduced in the 1970s to make abortion access a federal right in the country. As a result, abortion is now outlawed in many states, leaving people without access to the vital healthcare they need to lead their lives on their own terms. In some cases, the recent ruling will put the lives of pregnant people in danger due to medical complications or issues surrounding domestic violence.  


If you’ve been feelingsadness, anger, despair, or downright rage about the current situation, you’re not alone. According to recent figures, 43% of the American public strongly disapprove ofthe Supreme Court’s decision, while over 62% believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time. This is good news. With so many people on the side of reproductive justice, there’s plenty of reason to hope we can fight back. 


However, we must remember that fighting back requires building coalitions and advocating for the rights of all Americans. Recent news articles and opinion pieces about Roe vs. Wade have (rightly)explained the dangers many cisgendered heterosexual women now face regardingtheir reproductive health. What many people overlook – or simply ignore – is the severe impact the the ruling will have on members of the queer community. 


In fact, queer people andpeople of color are often disproportionately affected by this kind of oppressive legislation due to structural discrimination and lack of access to money and resources. In this article, then, we’ll explore why members of the queer community (andour allies!) should be advocating for reproductive rights for queer people.We’ve also included a few helpful resources to explore and help you make a real difference in your community. There’s never been a more urgent time to get involved!


What reproductive healthcare issues do queer people face?


People from across the LGBTQIA+ community face so many healthcare disparities there are too many to mention in one article. With this in mind, we’ve listed a few of the ways in which queer people face barriers to sexual and bodily autonomy to introduce youto the scale of the problem. Remember – reproductive rights don’t just involve abortion access and pregnancy care. These rights also cover access to birth control, menstrual healthcare and sanitary products, sex education, and screening for reproductive health issues such as sexually transmitted infections and cervical/prostate cancers. 


1. Transgender people face marginalization and discrimination from healthcare providers


It probably won’t shock youto hear that people of transgender experience are more reluctant to approach healthcare providers with questions surrounding sexual and reproductive healthcare. Lack of knowledge about transgender issues or discriminatory attitudes toward the queer community mean some healthcare providers deliver inappropriate care or leave their patients feeling embarrassed, disrespected, or worse. Misgendering represents a significant problem in the healthcare sector, with many doctors and medical professionals unable or unwilling to discuss gender-affirming care or make any adjustments for their transgender patients. 


According to research, a third of people of transgender experience (and almost half of transgender men) avoid preventative healthcare, such as STI screening. To make matters worse, half of those with transgender experience report having to teach their healthcare provider how to deliver appropriate care for the queer community. The combination of an ill-informed medical community and reluctance on behalf of people of transgender experience to visit healthcare providers leaves trans community members at higher risk of life-limiting and even life-threatening medical complications.


2. Healthcare providers often assume patients are heterosexual by default


When a cisgender womanenters a doctor’s office to ask about reproductive healthcare, her medical provider will probably assume she’s heterosexual. This assumption can make it difficult for lesbian and bisexual women to discuss getting pregnant or, insome cases, having an abortion. A lack of knowledge or empathy about the livesof these women can lead to substandard care or a reluctance to seek necessary health interventions. 


3. Queer people are more likely to experience sexual assault and require appropriate after-care


According to recent stats, LGBT individuals are almost four times more likelythan non-LGBT people to face violent victimization, including sexual assaultand rape. Inevitably, this means a higher number of queer people requireempathetic forms of healthcare following such attacks – including abortion. Unfortunately, the recent Supreme Court decision will make it even harder for queer people to receive appropriate care following sexual assault. 


4. Society is still hostile to queer parents 


While attitudes toward gay parents adopting or using fertility treatments are becoming increasingly liberal, society retains certain prejudices toward many queer parents. For example, transgender men who become pregnant often face discrimination and confusion from healthcare providers and society at large – something which can take a serious toll on their mental and physical health. As such, we should fight fora world in which people can become parents if and when they desire and receive appropriate, respectful medical support.


How are queer and feminist movements linked? 


Feminist and queer struggles have often gone hand-in-hand. Why? Well, due to the simple fact that the oppression of both women and queer people comes from the same place. Patriarchal societies thrive on destroying the rights of women and anyone who dares to transgress sex and gender norms. 


We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas recommended rolling back even more federal rights, including gay marriage, following the announcement of Roe’s overturning. In a world where rich, white men run the show, we must come together to fight the various formsof oppression they use to retain power and wealth. 


So, as well as fighting forthe rights of women and queer-identified individuals, it’s vital we incorporatepeople of color into any liberatory project. After all, in a world where Black women are over three times more likely to die in childbirth or whilepregnant than white women, it’s clear that reproductive rights are anintersectional issue. There’s power in numbers! We just need to come together,learn from each other, and put aside our differences in the name of justice.


So, how can we fight together to improve access to reproductive healthcare?


So, how can you start making a real difference in your community and supporting queer reproductive rights? Here are three great resources to get you started:   


1. The National LGBTQ Task Force


The National LGBTQ Task Force is an organization committed to advancingequality for members of the queer community and ending discrimination of all kinds. The group recently set up a campaign titled ‘Queering Reproductive Health, Rights,and Justice’, which advocates for the reproductive health of queer people, including the right to become a parent. 


We recommend checking outtheir fantastic article on the implications of the Supreme Court’s recent actions, as well as their comprehensive toolkit for queering reproductive justice. If you still feel like there are gaps in your knowledge, these resources will tell you everything (and we mean everything) you need to know about how health legislation affects queer people in the US. 


Once you’re feeling moreknowledgeable about queer reproductive health issues, why not join the task force? At the very least, you candonate to a good cause. Alternatively, you can become a field organizer and get involved with the organization's directactions. 


2. SisterSong


SisterSong is a reproductive justice organization set up to advocate for the reproductive rights of trans women, indigenous women, and women of color. Set up by Monica Simpson, a queer Black woman, the organization works to address intersectional problems and center some of the most marginalized in society.  


SisterSong has plenty of opportunities for those keen to get involved in activism and advocate for reproductive justice. As well as hosting some of the largest reproductive justice conferences in the country and publishing vital research, the organization trans activists and mobilizes its members to engage inrapid-response actions to fight for the rights of marginalized women. Why not reach out and get involved?


3. National Coalition for LGBTQ Health


The National Coalition for LGBTQ Health is a vital resource for healthcare providers, researchers, and LGBTQ policymakers hoping to improve healthcare outcomes forthe queer community. Its recent LIVE OUT LOUD! Campaign was set up to fight the stigma queer people face when seeking healthcare and advocate for accessible and affirming medical services. Why not explore their website and join the coalition if you work in the healthcare sector?


It's time to fight back!


With the recent wave ofpushback on reproductive rights, there’s a very long way to go before we attain reproductive justice for all. However, as debates surrounding reproductive justice heat up, it’s vital that queer people’s voices are heard and everyone on the side of liberation comes together to fight some of society’s most oppressive systems to recognize that injustice for any of our communities is an injustice for us all.