State Watch

How Roe v. Wade’s reversal could affect the LGBT community 

AP-Rick Bowmer
People attend an abortion-rights rally at the Utah State Capitol Thursday, May 5, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade has set off alarm bells in the LGBT community.  

Advocates and legal experts are warning that the 1973 landmark decision, which deemed that a woman’s right to abortion is constitutional, could have severe consequences for LGBT Americans’ mental and physical health, socioeconomic status and right to marriage.  

“All of these rights are unenumerated and you know, if you tug on the Roe thread it’s like playing a really horrible game of Jenga,” Melissa Murray, Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at New York University, told The Hill.  

The draft Supreme Court opinion leaked Monday to Politico would effectively eliminate federal protections for abortions. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opinion that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong,” and that authority over the medical procedure should be handed down to the states.  

News of the leaked draft opinion has sent shockwaves through the nation, even as the Supreme Court has said that the draft is not the final decision on the matter.  

LGBT advocates are warning that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is not something that exclusively impacts straight, cisgender women. 

“There’s so much about LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice that connects us…and connect our movements. You know, the foundation of our movements were built on you know, freedom, you know, sexual freedom,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the LGBTQ Task Force.  

Members of the LGBT community including queer women, non-binary people and transgender men go to reproductive health care facilities for abortion access.  

Sharon McGowan, legal director of Lambda Legal, said that if the almost 50-year legal precedent is overturned, it would be “nothing short of devastating” for the community.  

“The right to access abortion, the right to make important decisions about one’s life and health care including abortion are fundamental to the ability of LGBTQ people and everyone to be able to live their lives…” McGowan said.  

The ability to access inclusive abortion care is also at stake, should Roe be overturned.  

Already, transgender individuals are reluctant to receive preventative and reproductive health care, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. About 50 percent of transgender men have delayed or avoided preventative care due to fear of discrimination or disrespect.  

According the organization, transgender teens including those who are at risk for unintended pregnancy, are reluctant to go to a family planning clinic.  

Meera Shah, chief medical officer at Hudson Penconic Planned Parenthood in New York, explained in an interview with The Hill that often, organizations like hers offer “non-judgmental” care to patients seeking abortions.  

She said that LGBT patients often see Planned Parenthood as a safe space, “because they know that they can walk into a health center and immediately feel seen, feel heard, and receive non-judgmental care.” 

If access to abortion is taken away, it may lead to people to seek care in another state where they might experience barriers because of their identity.   

“And so, taking away access to something that is so vital is just going to further exacerbate those disparities and patients will again be forced to travel to face doctors, or providers that they’ve never met and don’t know them that may misgender them,” Shah said.  

In addition, the idea of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term can be dysphoric for transgender and non-binary people.  

“I think in general, forcing anybody to be pregnant is violent,” said D. Odeja, senior national organizer at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “[Then] there’s the gender dysphoria that comes with being forced pregnancy upon a person…I think…that the thing we want to make clear is that there are trans people who do get pregnant and they need abortion.” 

Aside from the health care ramifications, legal experts say the Supreme Court’s potential decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could imperil other landmark cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision which found bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.  

According to Murray, Alito’s opinion argues that abortion is “unmoored” from the constitutional text and is not deeply rooted in United States history.  

The justice also argues in the draft opinion that the Roe v. Wade decision held that the abortion right was a right to privacy, which is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.   

But Murray said that there are many things that are not written in the Constitution, and that could lead to an unraveling of many rights, including marriage equality.  

“He [Alito] says that abortion is not deeply rooted in the history of the United States, but you could say that about quite a lot of things,” Murray said. “Until 1967, you could not marry a person of a different race.”  

“Until 2015, in many states, you could not marry a person of the same sex, and, indeed, for a long time not only were such marriages absolutely null and void.”  

“You might say many of those things about all of these other rights like their marriage, children, procreation, contraception, none of that’s in the Constitution. And for a long time, we actually did criminalize some of those things as well.” 

Alito does mention in the draft opinion that the ruling not meant to be “misunderstood or mischaracterized.”  

“…we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” 

But Murray argued that Republicans will see other rights as “up for grabs,” citing questions from Senate Republicans at Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing about different decisions made by the high court.  

“I also think it’s disingenuous of him to suggest that this opinion begins and ends with abortion,” Murray said.  

“During the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, Senator John Cornyn asked her about what she thought about Obergefell versus Hodges… Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee asked her about Griswold versus Connecticut, the 1965 case that announces the right of privacy and also provides for a right to use contraception.” 

It remains unclear if marriage equality will come under fire, and Republicans have largely avoided the question about whether they will seek to pass legislation that would restrict abortion access on the federal level.  

“All of this puts the cart before the horse,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters at a press conference this week.  

–Updated at 10:38 a.m.

Tags Abortion LGBTQ rights Roe v. Wade Samuel Alito Supreme Court

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