Why Queer People Need Access to Abortion and Why We Must Protect Roe
I’ve been an abortion activist for over seven years in Washington, D.C., helping pregnant people access abortion care in the area. I’m also queer. There are many people in my LGBTQ+ circles who don’t understand why I, a cis woman engaged to another cis woman, am so worried about protecting access to abortion care.
Once again, this week I watched as the wider LGBTQ+ community glossed over the end of Roe v. Wade and the federal right to abortion to focus solely on the potential loss of marriage equality. As terrified as I am about losing the ability to marry my fiancé, I can’t ignore the fact that without the right to abortion and reproductive health care, there would be no marriage equality in the first place. Queer people ignoring Roe because it might seem irrelevant for people in relationships with someone who cannot get them pregnant is shortsighted.
Maybe it seems counterintuitive because the stereotypical idea of queer or same-sex partnerships involves people of the same gender, but that is not always the case. Both sexuality and gender are fluid and varied. AFAB nonbinary people, trans men, bisexual and pan women who date cis men — these are just some examples of those in the LGBTQ+ community who may need access to abortion care if they get pregnant and don’t want to be.
This doesn’t even include your lesbian friends who conceive via donor sperm who may endure an ectopic pregnancy. Or your gay coworker’s surrogate who receives a devastating fatal diagnosis. It’s the people you love. Don’t forget to fight for them too while you make noise about marriage equality. We can’t have one without the other.
Lastly, not all pregnancies come about consensually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46 percent of bisexual women have experienced rape, while the figures are 17 percent for straight women and 13 percent for lesbians. Sixty-one percent of bi women have been raped, stalked, or subjected to physical violence by an intimate partner. Access to abortion care is crucial for queer survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence.
Just because you might not need an abortion for the reasons straight people might doesn’t mean you or someone you love won’t need one in the future.
Losing marriage equality would be devastating. But without the precedents set by Roe, there would be no marriage equality. There can't be Obergefell(Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that led to federal marriage equality) without Roe.
And many abortion clinics across the country will be forced to close their doors. Many of them provide other necessary forms of care for queer people, such as gender-affirming care, HIV testing, contraception such as internal and external condoms, and STD screenings. Those clinics provide the spectrum of care that allows queer people to live their lives completely and fully.
The LGBTQ+ community must fight for abortion access. Any attack on bodily autonomy bodes badly for the queer community.
To all queer people worried about losing their right to not only marry but to live their lives as their whole identity, the fight is one and the same as the fight for abortion access. An attack on one form of bodily autonomy is an attack on all bodily autonomy.
Speak to the queer people in your circle. Start by openly acknowledging that you are pro-choice. One in four women has had an abortion in their lifetime, which means you absolutely know someone and love someone who has had an abortion. The way you speak about this topic might have a deep impact on the people around you. And you never know who may need an abortion in the future or has had one in the past. Being knowledgeable about abortion care will be critical for them if they need it someday. Be that person they can turn to.
Learn more about the history of abortion and contraception in this country. Like with the queer community, turn to BIPOC, especially Black women, who have been leading this fight since the beginning. A strong, unified, intersectional front will be the key to our collective success.
And then join the fight. There are many ways to work to protect abortion access. The first is to share information about how to donate. Here is a useful list of abortion funds in each state that you can copy and paste right into Twitter or share on other platforms. Abortion funds cover some or all of the cost of an abortion, which can range anywhere from $200 to $20,000, depending on the type of procedure and how far along a person is. Whether or not you are able to donate, sharing this information can help make a financial difference.
Next, look into volunteering. Clinic escorts are volunteers who help patients from their vehicles into a clinic through crowds of protesters. They act as the ears and eyes of the clinic and offer comfort and privacy for patients. Practical support volunteers help get patients to the clinic. Every collective is different in what they provide, and that may include housing, rides to and from the clinic, picking up prescriptions, child care, food, and more. To find these kinds of organizations, Google your region + “practical support,” or “clinic escorting/defense.”
Lastly, spread the word. Include information from sources like the M+A Hotline, Plan C, and local clinics. Consider making small fliers to include on your table at pride or at any queer events you hold.
The LGBTQ community’s entire history has been one of action and activism. It’s time to draw on our roots and mobilize for both abortion access and our right to live freely and openly as queer people.
Steph Black is a queer Jewish abortion activist and writer in Washington, D.C. Read more of her work and subscribe to her newsletter at StephBlack.blog.