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How Abortion Bans Target the LGBTQ Community

Tamika Turner of Planned Parenthood
Tamika Turner of Planned Parenthood

Politicians are stripping LGBTQ people of their right to health care, writes Planned Parenthood's Tamika Turner.

In the first six months of 2019, we've seen what many didn't believe was possible -- a dangerous and coordinated rollback of abortion rights in the United States. And despite the narratives, it's not just the South. It's Utah, it's Ohio, it's Indiana, it's North Dakota. Twelve states have passed abortion bans in the first six months of 2019 all with one goal in mind -- to bring a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. While people across the country are taking to the streets or to social media to show their outrage, some of the efforts have erased what our communities know to be true -- that many LGBTQ people can and do have abortions. The fight for reproductive rights is a fight for all of us but we cannot achieve justice without recognizing that abortion bans threaten our health, our rights, and our lives, too.

In this country, your access to health care is often dependent on how much money you're able to make, and your income is deeply tied to the discrimination you face. Transphobia and homophobia can create barriers to education, shut LGBTQ people out of jobs, and leave us open to criminalization. And for people of color, racism can add another layer of discrimination to contend with. Because of this, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience poverty and use federally-funded insurance to access health care.

If you depend on Medicaid for health care, the Hyde amendment unfairly bars you from using your insurance to access safe, legal abortion. It can take months to scrape together that money, and you'll be forced to divert funds meant for rent, childcare, utility bills, and food for yourself and your family to pay for an abortion. This pushes the date of your appointment further and further down the line and makes it more unlikely you'll be able to get an abortion at all.

Abortion bans also force patients to travel up to hundreds of miles and cross state lines for health care. When you're struggling to make ends meet, the costs of taking unpaid time off work, securing child care, and paying for gas and hotel rooms can put abortion out of reach.

The same politicians who refuse to pass non-discrimination laws that could help ensure that LGBTQ people can secure and retain jobs are the ones pushing these abortion bans. And when they pass a six-week ban, or a 20-week ban, they know exactly what they're doing -- and they know who won't be able to access this health care in time.

These laws pose a threat even for people that will never be pregnant because the intent of abortion bans violate the same conviction at the core of both reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights -- that we control our own bodies, we decide what our families look like, and we make our own health care decisions.

This isn't a coincidence.

Politicians at the state and federal level have been systematically stripping LGBTQ people of our right to health care. Just look at the state legislatures that have been passing these bans: They've cut Medicaid, allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination, blocked access to affordable STI testing and treatment, and have almost no LGBTQ representation.

It's not just the states. The Trump-Pence administration is trying to roll back non-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act and has issued a far-reaching Department of Health and Human Services rule that would let health care workers deny patients' access to care and information based on their personal beliefs.

Any one of us could be legally turned away while seeking emergency care because an employee in the health care system doesn't like our identity. It's unconscionable.

There have also been repeated attempts by extreme politicians to block access to care at Planned Parenthood, compounding obstacles that can stand in the way of access to essential and lifesaving health care. Planned Parenthood health centers provide care for all people, including abortion, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, birth control, and other sexual and reproductive health services and referrals. In nearly 30 states, Planned Parenthood offers hormone therapy, and some health centers offer puberty blockers.

Not all health care providers have knowledge or understanding of diverse sexualities and gender identities. Planned Parenthood takes pride in providing high-quality, competent, and compassionate health care for LGBTQ people in our communities.

We're fighting these bans so we can continue to provide care to the communities that need it most. And as we fight the illegal and unconstitutional laws, we cannot afford to leave LGBTQ people out of the conversation of who can become pregnant and who may need access to an abortion.

These bans are not yet in effect -- you can still make an appointment at your local health center, and get the care you need. But anti-abortion opponents are working fast and we need to be ready. Be loud and be bold in your defense of the right to safe, legal abortion. Because it is our rights, and our bodies, on the line.

Tamika Turner is the associate director of Constituency Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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