The toll of the overturning of Roe v. Wade has been swift and devastating. In less than three months: a mother was forced by threat of criminal ramifications to carry her pregnancy to term though the baby was born without a skull and would not survive upon delivery (WAFB); chronically ill and cancer patients are being denied medications that can also be used to end or harm pregnancies (Washington Post); doctors are abstaining from providing or delaying medical care for pregnancy complications due to fear and confusion behind broad abortion bans (NPR). This is to say nothing of the countless patients being turned away from clinics with no alternatives or means to access a safe abortion (CBS News). The consequences aren’t strictly abortion-related. Physicians are leaving or turning down positions in anti-abortion states, affecting small and rural communities’ access to reproductive health services (Washington Post). And lawmakers in states with abortion trigger bans have taken the opportunity to further target LGBTQ+ people’s reproductive care and existence, including banning access to gender-affirming care and putting school meal funding at risk due to disagreeing with USDA’s policy against denying school lunches to gay or trans students (ABC News, Action News JAX). The fallout from the Roe v. Wade reversal emphasizes that this is not just a loss of abortion access but part of a broader attack on reproductive health and bodily autonomy, with the most marginalized feeling the brunt of the attack.
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Supporters of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ laws contend that they are protecting children. Their rhetoric and policies have the opposite effect. They normalize erasure, violence, and harm against LGBTQ+ youth and strip teens of access to necessary, even life-saving reproductive healthcare. Despite the increased risk of health complications and death from pregnancy in children and teens, they deny them access to abortion — as in the case of a 16-year-old in Florida and a 10-year-old in Indiana (World Health Organization, PBS, IndyStar). And though “there are more laws banning transgender girls from playing K-12 sports than there are transgender girls playing K-12 sports,” they enforce these bans, harming and alienating teens and children just to “protect” youth sports (them). Though legislators maneuver under this pretense, these “restrictions on trans rights and abortion rights come from the same playbook” (ACLU) of restricting bodily autonomy.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Justice Clarence Thomas validated this when he mentioned the possibility of reconsidering three landmark civil rights cases — Griswold v. Connecticut, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Lawrence v. Texas — when discussing Roe, which would further “strip women and the LGBTQ+ community from more of their basic rights” and be an invasion of privacy and autonomy (The ARD). Dissenters Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan also noted how the right to an abortion is not a singular issue and that “the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation” (Politico). These cases “are all part of the same constitutional fabric” that is “protecting autonomous decision making over the most personal of life decisions.”
Before the Roe reversal, the right to bodily autonomy was unraveling for some and non-existent for others. Legislators have introduced more than 200 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, with trans and non-binary people being the targets of half of them (NBC News). They range from limiting “trans people’s ability to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, and receive gender-affirming health care. And the lack of reproductive care options due to healthcare disparities, high pregnancy mortality rates, and the criminalizing of a post-Roe v. Wade world was already a reality for marginalized people.
The truth is that reproductive health has been exclusionary because of whitewashing, prejudice against gender non-conforming people, and transphobia (Elle). Reproductive justice activists and advocates have spoken out about reproductive suppression and injustices and the failures of not being intersectional in the movement. And how an already “hostile” healthcare system’s “hostility will only deepen as visibly queer people attempt to gain access to care that is now available only via a state-by-state free-for-all” (them). Yet, it wasn’t until the overturning that those who Roe has overwhelmingly protected began sounding the alarm on reproductive health and abortion access.
The newfound urgency to defend abortion access and reproductive health feels one-sided when current conversations assert that these issues be centered solely as a “women’s issue.” The problem is it’s not just a woman’s issue, and to say it is, ignores how intersectionality plays a big part in who gets support, gets heard, and holds agency. People from more marginalized communities are most negatively affected. They are more likely to have care withheld or put into extenuating circumstances (poverty or survival sex work) that lead to an unplanned pregnancy (Lambda Legal). Even if most people who get abortions are cisgender* (ACLU), we need to center people of color, trans men, and gender non-conforming people when we talk about abortion because they’re already harmed the most. We must recognize that these bans are not new or isolated but coordinated attacks to criminalize our bodies. Unless we become intersectional in our fight for reproductive justice, bodily autonomy will remain out of reach.
*Medical research and data collection are historically biased and exclusionary, and the majority of abortion studies record trans or nonbinary people as women.
• The repercussions of overturning Roe v. Wade has been immediate and far-reaching.
• Abortion rights and LGBQT+ rights are intertwined.
• Barriers to reproductive healthcare and bodily autonomy negatively affect everyone, especially the most marginalized groups.