Is Abortion Only a Women’s Rights Issue?
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Time and time again, abortion and other limitations in reproductive rights are framed as a “War on Women.” And it is. The most recent statistics on abortion are from 2019, stating that there were 629,898 reported abortions that year (1). Statistics also say that nearly 1 in 4 (23.7%) women will have an abortion by the age of 45 (2). At pro-choice protests, people hold up signs that all share similar sentiments regarding threatened or current lack of reproductive rights access. Some of these signs say things like, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “Her Body, Her Choice,” “Defend Women’s Rights,” and “Women are Not Property.” Most people recognize that not all women will have the need for an abortion, since not all women can conceive or be pregnant. But what about those out there who are not women, can be pregnant, and also need abortion access, just like women?
The word transgender is defined as a person whose gender is not the one that they were assigned at birth (9). An estimated 1.6 million people in the United States over the age of 13 identify as transgender (3). This number is expected to continue to climb, since 1 in 5 transgender people are between the ages of 13 and 17 (3). As more people, particularly youth, feel comfortable coming out in a more accepting world, the transgender community will grow in size.
Transgender people have long struggled to find access to healthcare. An estimated 30% of transgender people do not seek general medical care due to discrimination by healthcare providers (4). One in four are denied equal treatment in healthcare. This statistic is not only for transgender-related healthcare but also all healthcare needs (4). Some discrimination that transgender people may experience in healthcare settings includes being refused medical care, misgendering by a provider or staff member, receiving inaccurate diagnoses and care based on assumptions made by a provider, facing uncomfortable questions or potential judgement by staff, and receiving medical treatment while in an uncomfortable, trauma-inducing setting (8).
It is not true that all transgender people cannot get pregnant. It is estimated by the 2015 United States Transgender Survey, the largest United States resource available regarding transgender people, that only 25% of transgender people transition medically (3). This can include but is not limited to: surgeries on the chest, genitals, face, and taking hormones. These efforts are often called gender affirming actions. Many people do not support those in the transgender community who do not medically transition, even though it is far more common to not. Some transgender people do not desire a medical transition. Others may have no access to gender affirming healthcare in their area or cannot afford it. As stated earlier, many transgender people avoid medical settings due to discrimination.
Without efforts to medically transition or in addition to not using reliable birth control, transgender people who were assigned female at birth are just as likely to be fertile as cisgender (non-transgender) women, because no efforts or actions have been made to lower chances of conception. However, what is less known is that many people who medically transition can get pregnant. Doctors will often even give the impression that those taking testosterone cannot become pregnant, but that is not necessarily true (7). This causes many individuals who are taking testosterone to not be on a form of reliable birth control. Testosterone reduces hormones that cause pregnancy but is not a reliable form of birth control (7). This can cause unexpected pregnancy, and, in turn, a possible need for an abortion. Pregnancy can worsen gender dysphoria, which is a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their assigned sex and their gender.
This information makes abortion access crucial to the mental and physical wellbeing of many transgender individuals. As previously stated, however, transgender people do not have equal accessibility to health care due to discrimination, which causes a great loss of abortion access for transgender people every year. One study that surveyed 1,694 transgender people found that 12% had been pregnant, with 21% of these pregnancies ended in abortion (6). This study found that 6% of respondents had experienced an unexpected pregnancy (6). Though research is severely lacking in this area, as the numbers of reported transgender individuals rises, transgender people are expected to be more represented in research on all issues, abortion included.
Transgender people do not have the same accessibility to abortions as cisgender women. Though this issue may be a “War on Women,” it is not just a War on Women. It is a war on the ability to make choices regarding bodies that can conceive and become pregnant. Just as transgender people are denied the ability to make decisions regarding their decision to medically transition and receive gender affirming care, they are also frequently denied abortion access. This denial may be directly or indirectly through history of discrimination.
Some ways to support transgender individuals seeking abortions is to advocate for equal access to healthcare for all people, including abortion access. Some easy ways to change language surrounding pregnancy include saying “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women,” and saying “reproductive healthcare” instead of women’s healthcare. Transgender people do experience pregnancy, and though some may choose to continue their pregnancy, transgender people also need equal accessible to abortion. Just as “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” transgender rights are also human rights.
American Psychological Association. (2014, December 1). Answers to your questions about transgender people, gender identity, and gender expression. https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/transgender
James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
Jaffee, Kim D. PhD, MSW; Shires, Deirdre A. MPH, MSW; Stroumsa, Daphna MD, MPH† Discrimination and Delayed Health Care Among Transgender Women and Men, Medical Care: November 2016 – Volume 54 – Issue 11 – p 1010-1016
Moseson, H., Fix, L., Ragosta, S., Forsberg, H., Hastings, J., Stoeffler, A., Lunn, M. R., Flentje, A., Capriotti, M. R., Lubensky, M. E., & Obedin-Maliver, J. (2021). Abortion experiences and preferences of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people in the United States. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 224(4), 376.e1–376.e11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.09.035
Abortion is a common experience for U.S. women, despite dramatic declines in rates. Guttmacher Institute. (2017, November 22). Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/abortion-common-experience-us-women-despite-dramatic-declines-rates
Diamant, J., & Mohamed, B. (2022, June 24). What the data says about abortion in the U.S. Pew Research Center. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/24/what-the-data-says-about-abortion-in-the-u-s-2/
McCormack, O. (2022, May 7). Transgender advocates say the end of roe would have dire consequences. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/06/transgender-men-nonbinary-people-abortion-roe/
Rashid, S. (2021, June 28). Trans & Nonbinary People Get Abortions, too: Hey Jane: Hey Jane. Hey Jane | Hey Jane. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://www.heyjane.co/articles/nonbinary-trans-abortions
thisisloyal.com, L. |. (2022, June 21). How many adults and youth identify as transgender in the United States? Williams Institute. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/trans-adults-united-states/