In the backrooms of the Texas Capitol last week, members of the House of Representatives further chipped away Texans’ access to reproductive health care by voting to defund Planned Parenthood. Denying healthcare to thousands of Texans who depend on these services is bad enough, but the outrage shouldn’t end there. Worse still, the deal was struck in a seeming attempt to divide those who care about justice. Lawmakers tried to trade one wrong for another: defund Planned Parenthood or make it impossible for transgender Texans to participate in everyday life by barring them from the public restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
This catch-22 ultimatum was framed for the public as a choice that lawmakers had to make between access to reproductive healthcare and the safety and dignity of transgender people. But this is no choice at all; everyone loses no matter what happens when you play games with people’s lives and rights.
Planned Parenthood serves people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including transgender and gender nonconforming people. In fact, Planned Parenthood is often the only place people can go to for low-cost HIV tests or pap smears without facing discrimination and intrusive questioning about their gender identity or sexual orientation. In addition to routine reproductive and sexual health care, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas provides healthcare services that the transgender community relies on including Hormone Therapy (HT) at their North Austin, and soon Plano, health centers.
Planned Parenthood also serves some of our most vulnerable LGBTQ community members, including people of color, immigrants, non-native English speakers, and people who live in poverty. This is especially true in rural areas and in the Rio Grande Valley. We recognize that an attack on access to health care—against Planned Parenthood or any other provider serving our most vulnerable communities—is an attack on LGBTQ communities, who often face greater hurdles to getting the care they need. Access to full reproductive rights includes protecting the health and well-being of transgender men and women, queer, and non-binary folks.
What happened last week at the legislature was not a choice between healthcare and the trans community: it was a choice between access to full reproductive rights—which includes the health and well-being of transgender men and women—and the public safety and dignity of transgender individuals. It was a negotiation intended to bargain away the rights of our most vulnerable communities and it was and will always be an unacceptable strategy. The dignity, safety, and well-being of our community members are not poker chips that legislators can use to buy political cover.
Lauryn Farris is the Alamo Regional Coordinator for the Transgender Education Network of Texas. Rebecca Marques is a Policy and Advocacy Strategist for the ACLU of Texas.