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Trans, nonbinary community feel the impact in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade

Transgender flag.
Ted Eytan
Creative Commons
Transgender flag.

Following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, some in the transgender and non-binary community are concerned about their access to abortion rights.

Nuri Sherif, a trans non-binary law student at Western New England University in Springfield, said abortion rights have always been a cisgender "woman's health" issue.

"What happens when a trans person comes in [to a clinic] and is pregnant and needs care," Sherif said. "Do you need to intentionally misgender them so that that care is covered? Do they not get to access that care? Do they have to affirmatively argue that...they exist? Is that something that's going to have to happen?"

Sherif said trans people have had their bodily autonomy taken away for decades. In March, 15 states restricted access to gender-affirming care or are currently considering laws that would do so, according to UCLA's Williams Institute.

Sherif said there are also different ramifications for trans and nonbinary folk who have an unplanned pregnancy.

"There are changes that happen to a person's body when they're pregnant that are irreversible, like hip-widening that can be incredibly dysphoric," Sherif said. "And aside from the just the length and toll that it takes on a body that pregnancy and birth have. I think there are additional considerations for trans people of what pregnancy and birth mean that could actively undermine their gender-affirming process and their access to gender-affirming care. It could undo a lot of what gender-affirming care is supposed to help with, and it can't be undone."

Janson Wu, the executive director of GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders, said the right to abortion being taken away could lead to other laws being overturned that directly affect the LGBTQ community.

"We start to lose the ability to access medically necessary health care for trans youth or the right to learn about our families and our communities in schools. Those are dominos that could eventually lead to losing the freedom to marry at the U.S. Supreme Court," Wu said. "And to upend that would create chaos in people's lives and in the rule of law. That is something that the court should consider very carefully moving forward."

Wu says GLAD and other organizations are hoping to implement a Beyond Roe agenda in the state legislature that would expand abortion access, especially for trans, non-binary individuals and people of color.

Rebecca Hart Holder is the executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, one of the organizations funding the Beyond Roe coalition.

"States like Texas moved quickly in September to criminalize abortion care. They also moved to criminalize access to health care for trans and non-binary folks. So, it's very important that we see the linkage between access to abortion care and access to trans health care," Holder said.

Holder said trans and non-binary folks have legal access to abortion care in Massachusetts, but she wants that care to be expanded with more legislative action.

"The language that the legislature is working on goes much farther than the governor's executive order," Holder said. "It enshrines certain protections around malpractice insurance and ensuring that Massachusetts courts don't become a venue for hostile out-of-state claims. But more importantly, the (Gov. Charlie) Baker executive order does not include protections for providers of gender-affirming care. And the language in the legislature does."

State representatives are set to vote on a reproductive rights bill today, declaring that access to both reproductive health care and gender-affirming care is a "right secured by the constitution or laws" of Massachusetts.

The bill outlines broad liability protections for both providers who offer abortions and related care as well as for patients who receive them.

Statehouse News Service contributed to this report.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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