Why We Must Keep Talking About Sexual and Reproductive Justice in Pride Month

by Sadie Kempner 

The DAUK Women’s Caucus are passionately committed to the sexual and reproductive rights under attack from the present administration. If you’ve been reading the news or screaming into the void that is social media, you’ll know how important these rights are for straight cisgender women. But straight cisgender women are by no means the only group whose reproductive rights are on the line here. The LGBTQ+ community also faces alarming sexual and reproductive injustice and needs to be part of the conversation. 

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights, particularly abortion rights, have been a battleground of feminist politics for decades. However, the fight has too often only represented the needs of cisgender, straight (and often white) women. 

Recent restrictions on abortion rights affect members of the LGBTQ+ community. Many lesbian or bisexual cisgender women, transgender men, genderqueer, agender and gender fluid people can and do become pregnant. LGBTQ+ people therefore also require access to abortion as a fundamental form of healthcare, in a way that is sensitive, culturally appropriate and non-judgemental. 

Furthermore, LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to be low-income, particularly persons of color. Therefore, even in states without “heartbeat bills”, LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately affected by the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortion from Medicaid coverage. 

Abortion access is not the only barrier to sexual and reproductive health that LGBTQ+ folks face. Studies have shown that sexual minorities are less likely to have health insurance, particularly bisexual women, making access to health care of any kind more difficult (this study also over-represented white people with middle-to-high household incomes, so these disparities are likely to be higher among less privileged groups). Higher rates of HIVamong the LGBTQ+ community also means that many are denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. 

Abortion is not the only injustice faced here. Other SRH inequalities facing the LGBTQ+ community include access to hormone replacement therapies, contraceptive equity, access to PrEP (an HIV prevention drug), and informed and inclusive sex and relationships education and many more. 

As we stand for LGBTQ+ rights this Pride Month (and every month) and continue the fight for sexual and reproductive justice, it’s important to be aware of where and how these battlegrounds intersect, and to be attentive to those most likely to fall through the cracks in an often polarised debate. 

Here are some tips for taking action on reproductive rights and justice that ensures everyone has a place at the table:

  1. Know the facts – for a much more detailed breakdown of the range of issues affecting the SRH of the LGBTQ+ community check out this fantastic toolkit from the National LGBTQ Task Force.
  2. Follow Planned Parenthood’s lead and use inclusive language. When talking about access to abortion, talk about “people with uteruses”, “pregnant people” and be careful when using phrases such as a “war on women” to describe the situation (this is a good habit to get into generally – “people who menstruate” and the like is equally important). 
  3. If you’re not LGBTQ+, use your privilege, be a good ally, and don’t always leave it to LGBTQ+ folks to call out people’s mistakes (unintentional or not). Actively make space in reproductive justice movements for the voices of LGBTQ+ people and remember to amplify – speak with not for. 

Terminology: 

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights: According to the World Health Organisation, SRHR encompass the rights we have to sexual and reproductive health care, including maternal care and safe childbirth, accessible contraception, access to information about sexual and reproductive health in general and so on. 

Sexual and Reproductive Justice: This term recognises that, despite having certain rights (some outlined above) according to various international, national and state laws, people have different experiences of having these rights fulfilled, often along intersectional lines marked by race, sexuality, disability and so on. By calling for sexual and reproductive justiceas opposed to exclusively for rights, we are acknowledging that these inequalities of access to sexual and reproductive health care continue to exist across the US (and the world) even after the formal, legal argument has been won. 

Cisgender: Cisgender is a way of describing individuals whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth, as opposed to trans* or non-binary individuals whose gender identity is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.

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