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Why queering access to abortion is a must

Updated: Jul 10

The Green Wave shifted discourses and understandings of reproduction as no longer an exclusive part of “womanhood,” but as something diverse gendered bodies navigate. This shift, driven by the collective efforts from the ground up, firmly positioned abortion as a queer issue, affecting not only cis-gender abled white bodies. Symbolized by its green handkerchief and diverse gendered representations, the Green Wave became a catalyst for the ongoing fight for safe, free, and legal abortions for all ‘personas gestantes,’ previously excluded from the abortion debate. However, while visibility efforts to challenge understandings of abortion as solely cis exist, the erasure of trans and non-binary individuals remains as seen in countries like the U.S., where ongoing attacks on bodily autonomy, reproductive health, and gender-affirming care persist. As advocates, it is crucial to strive for the visibility of oppressed identities within the abortion and reproductive health debate.

Trans and non-binary folks face barriers to abortion and reproductive health access 

Trans and non-binary folks, particularly queer people at the intersection of multiple oppressed identities who seek abortion services, face disproportionate barriers. These include being denied medical care due to transphobia, experiencing misgendering, and encountering healthcare professionals who lack knowledge about trans bodies and health, as reported by a 2021 study by the BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health. Additionally, trans people in the U.S. disproportionately live in poverty, with about a third residing in southern states where abortion policies are highly restrictive. Seeking abortion for many thus includes traveling across states, adding yet another barrier for racialized and queer people who already struggle to access healthcare. In a 2022 survey conducted by the Center for American Progress,  21 percent of transgender or nonbinary people, including 28 percent of transgender or nonbinary respondents of color, said that a healthcare provider refused to offer reproductive or sexual health services due to their gender identity.

Attacks on abortion access are linked to restrictions on gender-affirming care 

The intersection of attacks on abortion access and the increasing restrictions on gender-affirming and trans healthcare is not coincidental. Both issues exemplify assaults on bodily autonomy and the inability to exercise the right to choose over one’s own body. 

Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, there has been a wave of legislative bills targeting trans youth across various states, as outlined by the ACLU. In states like Alabama, medical providers risk up to 10 years in prison for offering gender-affirming healthcare to transgender youth. Similarly, Idaho enacted laws prohibiting gender transition care for minors and imposing felony charges on medical professionals who provide such care. Regarding abortion services, the Louisiana Legislature recently classified mifepristone, a widely used abortion pill, as a controlled substance. Mifepristone, when used in combination with another drug, effectively induces a complete abortion in 99% of patients. Importantly, it is a safe procedure that can be administered outside of a clinical setting, which for many trans and racialized individuals prevents potential violence or dehumanization that may occur within medicalized spaces. Both attacks on gender-affirming care and abortion access are therefore interconnected and further elucidate the restrictive trends undermining the rights and healthcare options aimed at gender-queer people. 

As the policing of reproductive freedom persists so are the attacks on trans healthcare. It is no coincidence that states restricting access to abortion also deny access to gender-affirming care. If anything, we’ve come to learn that the control of reproductive choices comes with the policing and control of sexuality and gender expression. 

Why queering abortion access matters

From this, Vitala Global seeks to emphasize the ‘queering of abortion rights,’ the imperative of prioritizing diverse identities and experiences within the reproductive health movement – the need to advocate for and acknowledge the full spectrum of healthcare needs that challenge the perception that only cis-gendered white women can get pregnant and may seek abortion at some point in their lives.   

As Cathy J. Cohen says on Black Lives Matter, Feminism, and Contemporary Activism, queering as a method “allows for and promotes different types of allegiances, not only racialized allegiances but also allegiances based on the positionality of people relative to the state, which queers us all or produces a bond of unity needed for the type of mobilization that we’re beginning to see.” For reproductive health movements, this means,“ [maintaining] central the struggles of trans folks in our analysis and movements” because, after all, the integration of diverse gender expressions leads to a solid path for collective liberation.

We need to depart from the notion that abortion is a monolithic issue that stands in isolation from other restrictive policies like gender-affirming care. We must seek intersectional approaches that understand that attacks on bodily autonomy go hand in hand with the policing of gender expression, and the need to assert control over non-male cis-white bodies. 

How Vitala supports the need for more LGTBQI+ and SRH linkages

Read more articles about our work in our digital solution for contraception and abortion, Aya Contigo's blog:

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