Monday, June 21, 2010

The Intersection of Abortion and LGBTQ Rights

Cross-posted at Ode to Patriarchy

I talk a lot about LGBTQ rights, and I talk a lot about abortion rights. So do a lot of people. But very rarely do they ever seem to be mentioned together. And I know the obvious rebuttal... "it's not like someone's going to get pregnant"...

But in reality, it's two different sides of the same issue. Politicians trying to control other people's bodies (especially white, upper-class, straight, cis men controlling the bodies of anyone different from them, especially women).

Think about it. All the fuss about the "sanctity" of marriage and how same-sex marriage would destroy such an institution is a way to prevent physical interactions between LGBTQ individuals. The actual success of such an argument can be debated, but really the message is the same. While many laws prohibiting sodomy and other types of sexual interaction have been removed or buried so deep in the history books that they have no purpose, some still exist on the record across the nation. In addition, we still live in a culture that looks down on premarital sex (to the point that you can lose your job in some areas), teaches abstinence until marriage in public schools, and is horrified by the scandal that is teenage pregnancy. In a last ditch effort to control what LGBTQ individuals do in the bedroom, anti-gay politicians push for the ban of same-sex marriage, dismissal of LGBTQ people from the military, and prevention of gay adoption. All under the guise of religious doctrine and "pro-family" politics.

Meanwhile, in the abortion debate, the justifications for controlling LGBTQ bodies are the same as the justifications for banning abortion. Mandatory waiting periods, lack of insurance coverage, and restrictions on who can have an abortion take control of a woman's body away from her and gives it to typically male politicians. The question of how does a male politician with no medical training in abortion or experience as a woman know what is best for a woman, of course, is never said. Access to birth control and abortion are restricted little by little with the full intention of placing control of women's bodies in the hand of male politicians. Like with anti-gay politics, religious reasons and "pro-life" mantras are used on the streets and in the courtrooms to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her own body.

To those who would say that no one chooses to be gay, trans, or anything in between, while women choose to have sex with the risk of getting pregnant, I disagree. No one chooses to be gay, true. But women don't choose the circumstances that affect getting an abortion. Abortion may be a choice, but the financial, emotional, and physical situations that a woman is in aren't choices. When a woman gives a partner consent, she's consenting to sex, not a pregnancy. If pregnancy were a choice then we wouldn't have to pay for birth control, we could just choose not to have the sperm fertilize the egg. Simple. Saying that a woman who is pregnant and considering abortion should have thought about that before having sex is like saying a person injured in a car accident should have thought about that before buying a car. Or that a person throwing up from food poisoning should have thought about that before eating at a restaurant.

In response to the inevitable "why would a lesbian need an abortion anyway?" I would like to point out that it's not just straight or bi women who get abortions. Lesbians, like all women, can be raped or assaulted incestuously. To dismiss lesbian and queer women from the abortion debate is to dismiss the experiences of those who have been the survivors of sexual violence.

Both LGBTQ and abortion rights come down to asserting that WE are the ones who control our bodies. WE must fight to make sure that WE have control over who we sleep with and what can be inside us. These aren't separate struggles. If we give in on one, we give in on them all.

Photo credit: kevindooley on

Ode to Patriarchy is Kari's personal blog. Don't worry, the name is ironic.


derobinson said...

May I just say that I love this post and I completely and wholeheartedly agree.

One thing though, instead of saying "gay marriage" could we instead say "same-sex marriage?" Because everyone who's in a same-sex relationship isn't gay, you know? It's just something that irks me a lot and tends to make me and others I know feel left out of the discourse.

Kari said...

Of course! I think that was more of me putting off dinner to finish this post because normally I'm pretty good about things like that. But don't you worry they've all been fixed! Thanks!