LGBTQ+ identified people need abortion access.

That was the point I worked to get across during my 3 minute testimony that I gave in front of Hartford City Council last Monday. I have spent this semester interning with True Colors, Inc. and NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut concentrating on reproductive health, rights, and justice especially for LGBTQ+ young people in Hartford. Last week, Hartford City Council gathered to host a public hearing on the proposed Pregnancy Information and Disclosure Ordinance.  If passed, this ordinance would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers to disclose services they offer and whether or not they have licensed medical staff on the premises. On Monday hundreds of people flooded city hall from all over Connecticut both in support and against the ordinance.

Crisis pregnancy centers are fake clinics. They are usually non-profit organizations (run by anti-abortion religious extremists) that set up to look like comprehensive reproductive health clinics even though they are not. Their goal is to persuade unsuspecting people from choosing abortion and other reproductive health care options. There  is a CPC here in Hartford, called “Hartford Women’s Center” located only feet away from Hartford GYN Center, a real family planning clinic. The location’s proximity to Hartford GYN Center was purposeful. The goal of the “Hartford Women’s Center” is to intercept Hartford GYN Center patients on their way to appointments. That goal is not different from that of the other CPCs in Connecticut. There are close to 30 CPCs in Connecticut and only 18 real clinics. Nationwide there are over 4,000 CPCs and they outnumber abortion providers.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers often do the following:

  • Open in areas close to college campuses, low income communities, and by real clinics
  • Tend to have vague names (Like the Hartford Women’s Center)
  • Pretend to be full service health centers
  • Give false medical information about the “dangers” of abortion and contraception
  • Lie about the gestational age of the pregnancy, to push someone past the legal limit to choose abortion
  • Offer biased options counseling, which tends to be religiously based
  • Offer free pregnancy tests
  • Offer free ultrasounds and incentivize ultrasounds
  • Tend to be volunteer run…these volunteers often times wear scrubs or lab coats (like medical professionals)
  • Tend to not have real medically licensed staff
  • Use other misleading and deceptive tactics to counsel a pregnant person out of receiving an abortion, or even push them past the legal limit to being able to receive an abortion

Abortion is legal and our right to access it is being threatened. One population here in in Hartford that is affected by this issue are LGBTQ+ folks, especially transgender young people. Here are some statistics that put this issue in perspective:

  • As many as 98% of transgender men who have sex with men report that they lack adequate sexual health education
  • Many transgender men who have sex with men are at risk for unintended pregnancy as well as STIs. Some transgender men report being more concerned about pregnancy than HIV and other STIs.
  • Transgender and gender nonconforming youth are particularly at risk for sexual abuse and for engaging in commercial or survival sex (trading sex to meet basic needs)
  • 48% of transgender men have delayed or avoided preventative health care such as pelvic exams or STI screening out of fear of discrimination or disrespect. One survey reported that half of transgender men did not receive annual pelvic exams.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community need equal access to reproductive health care. LGBT+ youth of color especially have a higher risk of having an unintended pregnancy, HIV, and experiencing sexual violence. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender youth of color, experience high rates of violence against them. Young people are also particularly susceptible to deceptive practices by crisis pregnancy centers, because we most likely don’t have a lot of experience seeking out medical care by ourselves, and in the case of reproductive health care we just might be looking for help alone.

So, when an anti-choice fake clinic opens with a vague name in close proximity to a real clinic,, it’s quite easy to stumble into the wrong place. I worry about what could happen to a young queer person who accidentally walks through the wrong door.

Abortion access is not just a straight cisgender woman’s issue. Abortion access is an LGBTQ+ issue. Include LGBTQ+ people in your discussions about reproductive health, rights, and justice.  Be brave and radically inclusive. Break stigma. Defend, protect, and promote access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for everyone who needs it, and start right here in Hartford.

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