trust womenInvited to attend the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spring luncheon, I attached my Trust Women pin to a rainbow ribbon and headed out the door to pick up my feminist fellow traveler. While waiting in the pouring rain for her to come downstairs, I realized I had never blogged about why I support Planned Parenthood and why I believe reproductive justice is an LGBTQ issue.

I first used Planned Parenthood for medical care when I was being paid just above minimum wage at a bookstore. Without health insurance, their clinic was about the only place I could afford. In part because of the respectful treatment I received from them, I traveled from New Orleans to Washington, DC in 2004 to march for women’s lives with them.

While I don’t generally have to worry about unintended pregnancy, the LGBTQ community is not necessarily immune to it or the need for the legal option of abortion.

For example, bisexuals can engage in heterosexual relationships that result in pregnancy. Lesbians can get pregnant from rape. Trans men who haven’t had bottom surgery can engage in procreative sex and become pregnant and trans women can get others pregnant if they are having procreative sex.

The right to choose means so much more than just the availability of abortion, though. It means awareness about sexual health and the education to make informed decisions about your physical wellbeing.

The heteronormative nature and abstinence focus of sexual education programs in Louisiana results in far too many people not knowing about or using protection in their sexual activities. Further, lesbians in particular are less likely to seek regular gynecological care and LGBTQ folks in general are a medically underserved population.

And that is exactly what Planned Parenthood does by providing high-quality, sensitive, and appropriate reproductive health, general health and sexual health services to all their patients regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

I hope I’ve convinced you to support Planned Parenthood but, in any event, let’s now talk about choice.

Those of us who call ourselves pro-choice typically support the right for individuals to decide whether, when, and with whom to have a family without interference from politicians.

There is a direct line from the legal decisions on choice (Griswold v. Connecticut up to Roe v. Wade) to the cases for LGBTQ equality (Lawrence v. Texas – the decision that struck down a state law criminalizing gay sex between consenting adults and US v. Windsor – the decision on marriage equality that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act).

In the cases above, the court acted to protect the fundamental right of liberty. Those decisions hold that the very structure of the Bill of Rights entails a broad respect for personal liberty and that the court’s purpose is to recognize and defend liberty against majority intrusion.

LGBTQ people want to be able to hold the same jobs, rent the same apartments, access the same credit, pursue the same education and even buy the same damn cakes as everyone else. Denial of those rights or denying same-sex couples the right to marry infringes on their ability to make personal decisions about important parts of their lives and violates the bedrock principles of liberty.

What arises from that is the question of what burden is placed on the person who doesn’t want to be involved in the liberty choice made by another person.

This issue has existed since the ratification of the US Constitution in 1790 but has come into stark relief with the advancement of marriage equality and the backlash from religious conservatives. A terrific article looking at the conflict between conduct and belief is Chai Feldblum’s Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion.

Americans have the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution and Louisianian-Americans also have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect the free exercise of religion. I would argue, however, that there have always been limits on that, especially for those who would use religion to discriminate against and/or impose their beliefs on those who do not share them.

When individuals are serving the public, their individual discriminatory behavior, even if it is based on their religious beliefs, should​ not be supported by the state. The so-called Marriage and Conscience Act tosses out that civil rights concept:

A. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, this state shall not take any adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman. (text of HB 707 with proposed amendment language)

HB 707 is a brazen attempt to insert religious beliefs and moral objections into the law in such a way as to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples.

I encourage you to contact your legislator to tell them to oppose HB 707.

I fight for gender equity because most gender based disparities disadvantage women and I believe everyone should have access to the full range of opportunities to achieve their dreams. I fight for reproductive justice because all people should have the social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, their sexuality and their families. I fight for LGBTQ equality because no one should be confined by prejudices that limit who they can be or who they love.

Join me at the Louisiana State Capitol (900 N. 3rd Street, Baton Rouge) on Tuesday, May 19th from 9:00am to 2:00PM for the HB 707 Hearing in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

Together, we can show our elected representatives that this law is bad for Louisiana.