As I walked toward the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court last month for a rally against draconian abortion bans recently passed in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio, I overheard some tourists who’d noticed rainbow flags and LGBTQ signs hoisted above the throngs.
“Why do gay people care about abortion rights when they don’t need them?” they questioned.
Actually, we do. According to the National Institutes of Health, young lesbians, bisexual women and gender-nonconforming people experience unintended pregnancies at higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers.
Beyond just abortion care and contraception, LGBTQ people need access to regular STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and HIV treatment and prevention medication as a basic component of quality, affordable health care. And the health clinics that provide these services to the most vulnerable members of our LGBTQ community — including people of color, immigrants and transgender people — are the same clinics that provide safe, legal abortions. If these clinics are closed because of new legal restrictions passed by anti-choice extremists, LGBTQ people living in low-income communities and rural areas will be hit the hardest.
The fight for reproductive freedom is inextricably linked to the fight for LGBTQ equality for legal reasons, too. We rely on the same constitutional protections — the fundamental “right to privacy” guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth. Established in the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in the contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut and cited in the landmark abortion rights decision in Roe v. Wade, this constitutional right has been reaffirmed in every major Supreme Court ruling on both reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality — including the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling affirming the right to obtain an abortion, the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling striking down so-called “sodomy bans” and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling guaranteeing marriage equality nationwide.
In Casey, the Court specifically affirmed “the promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”
As LGBTQ people, we have an interest in not allowing the government to control how we live our lives and care for our bodies. And we similarly know how it feels for far-right politicians to insist that we live according to their personal beliefs, rather than our own.
Indeed, the right to have an abortion and the right to live openly and authentically as LGBTQ people, free from discrimination, are both fundamentally based on the right to control our own bodies. Both issues are about have privacy and autonomy in the most personal and intimate areas of life: love, marriage, procreation and family.
We at Equality California and our partners at Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, along with progressive state attorneys general around the country will be undoubtedly cite this clear constitutional principle to fight back against anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ restrictions passed in an attempt to shut down clinics, jail doctors who provide abortions and criminalize people who seek abortions in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and a range of other states.
So in honor of Pride Month and for those curious tourists who pondered the meaning of a rainbow flag at a pro-choice rally, let’s affirm as a community that reproductive rights are LGBTQ rights and reproductive health care is LGBTQ health care. Access to safe, legal abortion care is not just a women’s rights issue; it’s a human rights issue. And the freedom to choose what we do with our own bodies — and not have the government decide for us — is a freedom that the LGBTQ community will defend with every ounce of energy we have. Because we cannot afford to do anything less.
Valerie Ploumpis is the Washington, DC-based national policy director for Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. She is a political expert with more than two decades of experience in issue-advocacy campaigns, grassroots education and mobilization, coalition building, lobbying and media outreach.