Abortion Restrictions Harm LGBTQ People Now

Marriage equality has been monumentally important to me, and yet, I know my community is hurt by the Dobbs v. Jackson abortion ruling now. 

People participate in the Queer Liberation March on June 26, 2022 in New York Cit. (Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

My partner and I were married six years ago in Middlesex County, Mass., where the first legal same-sex marriage happened in the U.S. We choose that time and place chiefly due to the anniversaries of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, the Stonewall riots and Pride. Our parents read passages during the ceremony from recent court decisions. Since then, I have given birth to three daughters—including a set of identical twins. Given an especially high-risk type of twin pregnancy, abortion care would have been necessary if I had any number of complications.

LGBTQ and abortion rights are central not only to me personally as a queer woman, but also professionally. One of my first jobs was recording stories of abortion patients for an amicus brief in the landmark 2006 Supreme Court case Gonzalez v. Carhart (banning certain types of abortions). More than 15 years later, I am a leading scholar on LGBTQ reproductive health. Therefore, it was fitting that I signed another amicus brief with more than 500 of my public health colleagues—this one for the recently decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

On my wedding anniversary, the Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs ruling and eviscerated federal abortion rights. While expected, this news was devastating. Countless legal scholars have outlined how this decision tears down doctrine protecting other personal liberties. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas called to overrule Griswold v. Connecticut (contraception), Lawrence v. Texas (consensual sexual contact), and Obergefell v. Hodges (marriage equality). We know abortion restrictions disproportionally burden people of color and those who are low-income. Less known is the fact that abortion care is central to LGBTQ health.

While it may seem counterintuitive, research from my team and that of my colleagues reveals LGBTQ people are actually more likely to have an abortion than their cisgender heterosexual peers. For example, bisexual women are three times as likely to have an abortion. We know LGBTQ people are at a heightened risk for teen and unintended pregnancies. These disparities largely stem from discrimination, lack of healthcare access, limited contraception counseling, inadequate sex education and poverty. LGBTQ people often experience domestic violence and become pregnant after being raped; for every one victim in this situation that is a cisgender heterosexual woman, there are 10 LGBTQ victims.

In similar ways that racism leads to adverse obstetrical and birth outcomes among people of color, homophobia and transphobia harm LGBTQ people and their families. Many LGBTQ people use artificial reproductive technologies, which will be adversely impacted by Dobbs through restricting genetic testing for chromosomal abnormalities like Tay-Sachs and Hungtinton’s disease, for example. This impacts women in same-sex couples using technologies like in vitro fertilization, men in same-sex couples working with a surrogate, and countless others. Once pregnant, stress also contributes to LGBTQ people being more likely to have adverse birth outcomes (e.g., miscarriages), which can necessitate abortion care. Restricting abortions forces LGBTQ people to make impossible choices.

Medicine is more LGBTQ-inclusive than ever. We are beginning to train medical students in core LGBTQ concepts, like how to take an inclusive sexual history. Many abortion providers also offer gender-affirming care. And yet, little attention is being paid to the fact that LGBTQ people will be harmed by abortion restrictions beyond the danger to other rights. Marriage equality has been monumentally important to me, and yet, I know my community is hurt by this abortion ruling now. 

Dobbs sets a frightening precedent. Yet, we cannot lose sight that LGBTQ people—including women, transgender men, nonbinary people, and anyone able to become pregnant—are in grave danger now. Abortion will soon be illegal in half of U.S. states. People will be forced to give birth and others will die.

As a reproductive epidemiologist and mother, I am heartbroken that my three daughters and millions more have been stripped of their rights. I am also afraid of what’s next. Marriage equality is paramount and so is the LGBTQ community’s access to abortion. I chose to fight on.

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

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Brittany Charlton is an epidemiologist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. She is also co-director of the Harvard Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression Health Equity Research Collaborative.