Media Guide: Abortion As An LGBTQ Issue

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July 6, 2022

Abortion is an LGBTQ issue. Many lesbians, bisexual and queer women, nonbinary and intersex people, and transgender men can and do get pregnant—and can and do seek abortion services. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24 in its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, igniting a series of state bans on abortion around the country, a wave of activism, and a heightened area of media coverage. Inclusive language is a necessary part of thorough and accurate coverage of abortion, whether specifically covered as an LGBTQ issue or not.

GLAAD guidance for media covering abortion bans and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling:

●     Talk to LGBTQ advocates and LGBTQ people

●     Use Inclusive Language

●     Know the Facts on LGBTQ People and Abortion

●     Include Data and Polling

●     Reveal Links Between Anti-Abortion and Anti-LGBTQ Activism

●     Understand Similarities Between Abortion Bans and Transgender Healthcare Bans


Talk to LGBTQ advocates and LGBTQ people

Not only did the Dobbs ruling suggest that LGBTQ rights could be the court’s next target, many people in the LGBTQ community are also directly affected by new laws restricting or banning abortion. In fact, LGBTQ women statistically seek abortion at rates higher than their heterosexual peers (see Know the facts on abortion statistics in the LGBTQ community, below.) Make sure to include LGBTQ people in stories about people needing abortion services, and to include LGBTQ advocates who can provide context on the close parallels between abortion bans and bills restricting LGBTQ people and youth from lifesaving gender-affirming care.

When referring to people directly affected by abortion bans, include all people who can get pregnant: many women of all backgrounds and sexual orientations, many nonbinary and intersex people, and many transgender men

●      Women make up the majority of Americans whose access to abortion is restricted or taken away after the Dobbs ruling, but are not the only people who can become pregnant and seek abortion.

●      Many women cannot become pregnant for reasons that include age, health issues, having undergone tubal ligation or hysterectomy, or being transgender or intersex. They can still be included in the national conversation about reproductive healthcare. 

●      Many transgender men, nonbinary people, and intersex people can get pregnant and do need abortions. Recognizing this reality increases awareness for healthcare providers and others to improve access to reproductive care to all who need it.

●      Anyone who has the reproductive ability to become pregnant should be included in language around abortion; for example you can write “women and other people who can get pregnant” when referring to people impacted by bans. Aim for inclusive phrases like “abortion patients,” or “people seeking abortions” when possible, or get specific when needed: "pregnant teens" and "transgender men seeking abortion services," for example.

●      Never assume that someone does not need access to abortion just because they are a lesbian or transgender man, for example—many people have had abortions in the past, or may need to in the future.

●      The Trans Journalists Association noted: “It is unnecessary to avoid the word 'women' by substituting phrases like 'birthing people,' 'people with uteruses' and the like. This language can offend both transgender and cisgender people.”

Know the facts on abortion statistics in the LGBTQ community

●      Studies have found that women who are LGBTQ but do not exclusively have same-sex partners (i.e., bisexual, queer, and pansexual women) are more likely to become pregnant and to seek abortion than heterosexual peers. A 2019 study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other researchers found that bisexual women were three times more likely than heterosexual women to have had an abortion.

●      Another study conducted in 2019 found that over one-third of transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people who had been pregnant had considered ending the pregnancy on their own without clinical supervision, due to a range of factors including lack of insurance coverage and affirming healthcare.

●      An HRC analysis released this June found that lesbians were more likely to have experienced an unwanted pregnancy (at 39%) than both their heterosexual (27%) and bisexual (29%) peers. All of this data shows that LGBTQ people have a statistically greater need for safe, affordable, and gender-affirming abortion services.

●      The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey found that nonbinary people and trans men reported being sexually assaulted at higher rates than other populations. 51% of trans men and 55% of nonbinary people out of over 27,000 respondents said they had been assaulted in their lifetime. And according to RAINN, about 15% of all women have survived at least one rape in their lifetime. Many abortion bans make no exception for cases of rape, incest, or assault.

Include data on Americans’ support for abortion and other reproductive healthcare under threat such as contraception

●      According to a May ABC News poll, 70% of Americans say that the decision to have an abortion procedure should be made between a patient and their doctor, and the majority specifically oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

●      An NPR poll conducted after the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs ruling showed that a majority of Americans opposed the ruling and its overturning of Roe, and worried that the court would next target contraception and LGBTQ rights. 58% of Americans said they no longer had confidence in the court.

●      A CBS News poll conducted on June 24 and 25, after the ruling, found that 57% of Americans now believe the Supreme Court will overturn marriage equality. The same poll found more than half of Americans felt the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe was “a step backward for America.”

When researching anti-abortion groups, research their record on LGBTQ issues

●      Many of the most prominent national organizations leading the ban on abortion are also deeply involved in anti-LGBTQ efforts nationwide, especially anti-transgender efforts.

●      Anti-LGBTQ organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Foundation, and Family Policy Alliance have spread misinformation to urge book bans and school censorship, have used false information to support anti-LGBTQ state legislation, and lead efforts to block access to affirming healthcare for transgender youth.

Know the similarities between abortion bans and transgender healthcare bans

The landscape of abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruling mirrors the landscape of laws and policies banning gender-affirming healthcare and the targeting of families of transgender youth for investigation.

Map of the U.S. showing states that will ban abortion and roll back transgender rights (a majority of states doing both)

●      32 bills targeting trans youth healthcare have been introduced across the nation, despite the fact that gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical association.

●      Officials in Alabama have already suggested that the Dobbs decision be used to justify the state’s ban making it a felony to provide gender-affirming care.

●      States like Texas and Florida have proposed abortion bans and failed in the legislature to pass bans against gender affirming care.  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis then moved to block Medicaid coverage for trans healthcare regardless of age, falsely claiming a lack of evidence supporting the care, and pushed the agency regulating medical providers to ban gender affirming care, despite widespread consensus in the medical community in support such care.

●      Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state’s child welfare agency investigation of parents who affirm and support their transgender children under false claims of “child abuse”—a policy currently blocked by a court-issued restraining order.

●      More transgender Americans live in the South than in any other region, according to population estimates from the Williams Institute at UCLA. 22 states have targeted both abortion access and LGBTQ people or youth.

●      Many reproductive healthcare clinics, such as but not limited to Planned Parenthood, also offer gender-affirming care like hormone replacement therapy (HRT.) As those clinics are forced to close, patients seeking a range of care beyond abortion are also affected, including basic gynecological services, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and HRT.

Other useful references for inclusive abortion coverage

The Trans Journalists Association’s guidance on best practices for trans-inclusive language in coverage of abortion.

GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide contains guidance on LGBTQ terms and transgender terminology specifically.

Many vocal opponents of abortion rights in media and politics have also made anti-LGBTQ statements that can be found on the GLAAD Accountability Project.  

Stock photos of genderqueer, nonbinary, and trans people in various scenarios including healthcare settings are available for creative commons use via the Gender Spectrum Collection.