Gus Kenworthy
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How LGBTQ+ Rights and Reproductive Freedom Are Forever Linked

Repro Rights

You might not know who Janet Porter is, but you should. Janet Porter is an anti-LGBTQ+ fundamentalist Christian who is a proponent of gay conversion therapy and an opponent of marriage equality. Porter’s organization, Faith2Action, has been labeled an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has made a living off hating our community — all you have to do is listen to her radio show and see how she radiates hate. (Actually, don’t, just trust me. It’s awful.)

Not only is Porter fiercely anti-LGBTQ+, but she is also fiercely antichoice. She is on a crusade to turn back the clock on gender equality and overturn Roe v. Wade because she does not believe that pregnant people should have the freedom to choose. Porter is the original author of an Ohio six-week ban on abortion care that helped spawn the antichoice law just passed in Texas. She has been called a “one-woman lobby machine behind the heartbeat bills” because she has been instrumental in their passage. Porter is actually a one-woman wrecking ball when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive freedom.

Still, Porter knows a truth we must embrace: The fates of the LGBTQ-rights movement and the reproductive freedom movement are bound together. The right to privacy — the right enshrined in Roe v. Wade to find abortion constitutional — encompasses a host of intimate rights, including the right to sexual choice, the right to marriage for all people, the right to end a pregnancy, and the right to build a family. Porter knows that the work of advancing reproductive freedom is fundamentally tied to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people have the freedom to love and start a family with whomever they choose. 

That’s why what is happening in Texas is a threat to women’s rights and also to LGBTQ+ rights. Texas passed a law, Senate Bill 8, which not only bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but also allows any private citizen to sue anyone in Texas who “aids and abets” a pregnant person seeking abortion in Texas. SB 8 is blatantly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade but, instead of blocking the law from going into effect, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to proceed when the courts decide its constitutionality. 

Let’s call SB 8 out for what it is — a calculated, insidious law designed by the Texas legislature to strip away the rights of pregnant people and set back gender equality. At six weeks of pregnancy, two weeks after your last period, many people do not know they are pregnant. And even if you did know you were pregnant at six weeks, Texas law requires a 24-hour waiting period to obtain abortion care after “counseling.” The law will force pregnant people to either travel across state lines for abortion care, if they can even afford such travel, search out illegal methods for care, or carry a pregnancy to term that they are not ready for. 

This law is rooted in misogyny, not morality. It does not protect patients, support providers, or comport with medical best practices. It endangers patients and promotes anti-abortion vigilantism by empowering people to sue anyone who helps a patient access abortion care after six weeks. This is an absolutely disgusting part of the law and is a blatant end-run around the court. 

To put as fine a point as possible on it, in Texas you can refuse to wear a mask under the banner “my body, my choice.” But if you try to help a pregnant person exercise their reproductive choices you can be sued by anyone! It tells you exactly what you need to know about the antichoice movement’s belief in the capacity of pregnant people to make health care decisions about their own bodies. 

This state-sanctioned cruelty was given the stamp of approval by our Supreme Court, an institution taken hostage by antichoice and far-right forces. This decision is a harbinger of what’s to come when the court hears Dobbs v. Jackson — a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade — and rules if a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks is constitutional. Though I cannot predict the future, the tea leaves certainly indicate that Roe is in grave danger of being gutted and pregnant people are in danger of losing the right to determine if, when, and how to start a family. 

The high court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson will have far-reaching implications for generations to come, impacting the rights of pregnant people nationwide. But Roe is not solely a case that protects the right to choose. Many of the rights that the LGBTQ+ community has relied on the Supreme Court to affirm flow from the decision in Roe. Roe v. Wade enshrined the right to privacy, a far-reaching right that underpins the right to choose, the right to contraception, the right to procreation, the right to marry, and the right to rear your children as you see fit. Take Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark marriage case in which the Supreme Court found that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. If Roe falls, Obergefell still stands, but it stands on much shakier ground. 

This brings us back to our friend Janet Porter. She knows that people who have the right to decide if, when, and how to start a family also have the right to decide who they love and what their family looks like. She knows that if the antichoice movement can defeat Roe, it has an opportunity to start chipping away at same-sex marriage — to pave a future of “traditional families” in which women have no rights and LGBTQ+ families do not exist. 

Porter knows abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights are forever intertwined, and so do we. That’s why we need to fight like hell to protect them all.

Rebecca Hart Holder is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. Twitter: @rhartholder

Tags: Commentary, Women

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