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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Opinion

Women are not the only ones who need access to abortions


When Nick Thixton, who uses pronouns they/them, needed an abortion in Texas as a trans person, they felt alienated at times. Despite a few hiccups along the way, Thixton was able to have their abortion in an environment that was respectful and gender affirming.

In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions, according to Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization. States like Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio have passed near-total abortion bans.

“People making these restrictions think that all pregnant people are women and that women don’t know what they need,” Thixton said. “The entire conversation is dominated by women this, women that, trust women — she/her is the default.”

Targeted regulation of abortion providers laws, or TRAP, are designed to systematically shut down 75 percent of all abortion providing services in Texas, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Thixton like other LGBTQ members want and need to be included in the reproductive healthcare conversation because women are not the only ones seeking abortions.

“It is alienating when all the language centers on women, because it’s like you’re talking about my body but erasing my existence,” Thixton said. “It’s like an out-of-body experience reading some of this literature because they are talking about my body and the experience that I went through. So, I know that I had this experience physically and I’m reading about it but there is no room for me as a person in this narrative.”

There are more obstacles blocking gender-queer and trans people from safe and affordable abortions. Because most abortion seekers are women, there’s a misconception that the people in need of these services are only females. Many abortion care providers and organizations have slogans that exclude everyone who is not a cisgender woman, who can still get pregnant.

Reproductive rights organizations like the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, have made an effort to use inclusive language about “people” throughout their website. The transition to gender-inclusive language is motivated by the need to ensure that every person is included.

Though Thixton was able to have an abortion in a timely manner at a facility that accommodated their needs, there were still moments when the language used was gender non-affirming.

Thixton believes that having a well-educated staff will significantly decrease the amount of assumptions made about a client’s sexuality and gender. Despite the efforts made by several reproductive health care clinics, there seems to be a disconnect between the patient-care aspect of using gender affirming language.

“I would like the conversation to move to a place where the default would be to not name it ‘woman’s’ this and that,” Thixton said. “If we move the conversation to the point where we’re defaulting to gender-neutral language, then people wouldn’t think to name it that.”

Fund Texas Choice is a non-profit organization that formed after Texas House Bill 2 was passed and caused the closure of nearly 75 percent of all abortion providing services in Texas.

“As (abortion) currently exists, it’s something that’s only accessible to people who have the resources to get to the clinic safely, who can pay for the service,” said Stephanie Gomez, chair of community engagement at Fund Texas Choice.

Gomez emphasizes that Fund Texas Choice is focused on being a gender inclusive organization that provides transportation and accommodation.

When people reach out to the organization, it’s out of need for equitable access to abortion  services. While the abortion itself is not paid for, there are other avenues of assistance including gas, Uber rides, plane tickets, hotels, etc.

Gomez applied to the board of directors at Fund Texas Choice, motivated by the lack of safe transportation available for abortion seekers.

“I consider my abortion the first time I think, that I ever felt empowered in my life,” Gomez said. “It was the first time that I decided I was going to do what was best for me, and I wasn’t going to do something based off of what I had been told by society, by my parents, by the Catholic Church.”

A few weeks after Gomez turned 18, she was prompted by her friends to take a pregnancy test, as a joke.

“There was a bathroom in our classroom,” Gomez recounts. “I went into the bathroom in my classroom and they hear me sobbing because my pregnancy test came out positive.”

Gomez was raised by her devout Catholic family and had adopted the same views on abortion, but when the pregnancy test read positive, she instantly knew that abortion was best for her.

At the time, she couldn’t turn to her family and reluctantly turned to her abuser.

“I had to beg my abuser to drive me to a Planned Parenthood center,” Gomez said. “That was the reality for me and for a lot of people across Texas.”

Both Thixton and Gomez experienced some hardship in financial access to their abortion providers. In addition to the lack of access, financial barriers severely infringe on a person’s access to reproductive health care.

The nationwide cost ranges between $350 to $950 for an abortion during the first trimester, according to Planned Parenthood. The farther along in a pregnancy, the heftier the cost.

For LGBTQ people, financial barriers can be further debilitating. A 2013 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of different-sex married couples. A 2015 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that compared to the general public, transgender people are three times as likely to be unemployed.

People who seek abortions are further inconvenienced by waiting periods during their search for a safe and legal abortion provider. Waiting periods are disguised as a benefit to the client by presenting them with the opportunity to fully consider the decision. But these state mandated waiting periods result in dramatically higher costs.

“In total, the mandatory waiting period could increase the monetary cost of obtaining an abortion by a total of over $900 when accounting for fees, transportation costs, lost wages, and child-care,” according to a 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Clinic Access Support Network is a 501(c) nonprofit organization that believes everybody deserves access to reproductive healthcare. CASN provides their services to people regardless of their income, socioeconomics, living situation, race, gender identity and sexual orientation.

CASN heavily relies on the power of approximately 80 volunteers to mobilize abortion seekers and aid them by providing transportation, accommodation and childcare assistance.

“Last year we drove over 700 people,” said Sahra Harvin, board co-chair at CASN. “We have several people a day who need rides, and it’s hard to staff even the local one’s.”

While CASN currently does not have an office, the volunteer-based organization functions by using different apps for scheduling and communication to provide transportation for abortion seekers without access.

“We get usually between 5 and 15 new volunteers like every other month and we lose maybe about 1 or 2 every month,” Harvin said. “We’ve been hovering around the 80 person mark since the 2016 election.”

Harvin explained when a caller leaves a voicemail or texts the hotline, a case manager will respond to gather intake information. The caller can expect follow-up questions regarding the location, time and type of appointment they are requesting CASN’s services for.

“It’s really powerful to know that you’re a part of this moment in somebody’s life that’s so transformative,” Harvin said. “I hope she’s okay. People don’t really stay in touch with us afterwards.”

Per CASN policy, drivers are prohibited from initiating a relationship with the callers. But Policy aside, Harvin believes that the caller sometimes wants to move on.

Sharing personal abortion stories can easily and safely be done online through the We Testify website. Both Thixton and Gomez are storytellers of We Testify, a project of the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Aimée Pezina is a journalism senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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