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Transgender and Nonbinary People Deserve a Voice in the Fight for Reproductive Justice Too

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January 19, 2024

  Since the federal right to abortion care was overturned in June 2022, conversations surrounding abortion care have primarily focused on the reversal as a ‘women’s issue.’ It is commonly misunderstood that cisheterosexual women are the only ones who seek abortion when, in fact, as many as 16% of people having abortions in the US do not identify as heterosexual women. In fact, access to abortion care is a small part of reproductive justice; according to SisterSong, reproductive justice refers to the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have free from violence and discrimination. Just like cisgender individuals, transgender and nonbinary individuals can also become pregnant, use birth control, have abortions, carry pregnancies, and become parents. Therefore, at their cores, gender justice and reproductive justice are linked by their need and insistence upon bodily autonomy as transgender and nonbinary individuals need access to gender affirming care to make their own medical decisions about their bodies and reproductive justice. However, by leaving transgender and nonbinary people out of the movement, we are discrediting their struggles that are intimately intertwined with our own. 

Trans and non-binary people have always been on the frontlines of the reproductive justice movement, but they are often erased entirely in the reproductive justice movement. The refusal to acknowledge transgender people is in direct opposition to the creation of the term ‘reproductive justice’. In 1994, a group of Black women created out of the realization that the women’s rights movements, historically co-opted by white cisgender women, could not defend the needs of women of color and other marginalized groups such as trans people. This framework was meant to address the lack of intersectionality among race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. These origins should allow us to understand how intimately linked transgender justice and reproductive justice are.

After the court’s decision to overturn Roe, it’s clear how interconnected the transgender and reproductive justice movement is. While Grisworld v. Connecticut was the first to establish the right to obtain contraceptives, Roe reaffirmed prior decisions for protecting individuals’ rights to contraception and to decide whether to bear a child; it also influenced privacy and liberty rights in several areas such as the right to maintain family relationships, the right to personal control of medical treatment, etc. Other privacy-related rights such as gender-affirming care could be threatened; after its overturn, Justice Clarence Thomas implied that other cases could be next. The transgender and nonbinary community cannot be an afterthought in the fight for reproductive rights when their bodies are just as much under attack. Transgender and nonbinary individuals already have to navigate an antagonistic health care system even before the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Structural healthcare discrimination and and disparities make it difficult for trans and non-binary people to receive care in traditional settings, and often reproductive health clinics are their only options for healthcareThe structural limitations felt by cisheterosexual women  comes with even more difficulty for transgender individuals.  Some of the potential obstacles they may face when seeking reproductive health include: 

  • Being refused medical care
  • Being misgendered by providers and medical staff 
  • Overall lack of knowledge about transgender bodies and health 
  • Higher levels of poverty and unemployment 
  • Lower rates of health insurance 
  • Health insurance denying coverage for reproductive services as the person’s sex does not match the sex for which the service is recommended

These barriers may discourage transgender and nonbinary people from seeking reproductive health services such as abortion service as they may feel a lack of dignity, care, and inclusion. With the right to an abortion no longer a constitutional right, transgender and nonbinary people’s chances of receiving adequate care may shrink even more.