42 States Have Considered or Passed Anti-Abortion or Anti-Trans Laws This Year

Is your state anti-abortion? It’s probably anti-trans, too.

May 24 2022, 2:13pm

“I'm devastated and frustrated and losing sleep. I’m worried out of my mind about it,” said Myriam Reynolds, a Texas resident and mother of a 17-year-old transgender child. 

Reynolds and her children live about 30 minutes north of Dallas. A few months ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an executive order that directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents and guardians who’ve helped secure gender-affirming care for their trans children. Since then, Reynolds told VICE News, it’s been “absolutely horrible.” The state’s Supreme Court upheld the order in May, allowing the agency to open new investigations of child abuse into these families. 

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Reynolds, like thousands of others trying to get care for their trans children, feels like her family is being targeted by lawmakers pushing a strictly political agenda. “They don’t give a shit about my kid. That’s not what this is even about,” she said. 

While Abbott’s order has been met with fear and panic from impacted families, these kinds of policies aren’t exactly new for people in Texas concerned about exercising autonomy over their bodies. In September 2021, the state Legislature passed an abortion bill that banned the procedure after six weeks, long before most people know they are pregnant, and deputized private citizens to sue providers. 

The fact that the Texas abortion ban occurred within months of the anti-trans order is not surprising: An analysis by VICE News shows a strong correlation between states trying to restrict abortion rights and those targeting transgender and non-binary people. States where abortion will be almost certainly banned and access to reproductive care curtailed are also the states being flooded with anti-transgender executive orders and legislation.

Almost every state in the U.S. has considered or passed anti-abortion or anti-trans laws this year. (Day Wardell and Kaz Ishii for VICE News Graphics)

“Abortion rights are trans rights,” Dee Ojeda, senior national organizer for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told VICE News. “They’re one and the same. It’s all about having rights to our bodily autonomy, having rights to getting the medically necessary healthcare we need.” 

More than half of the people who live in the United States likely will not be able to make critical healthcare decisions by the November midterms. Twenty-six states will likely ban abortion and millions will not be able to access reproductive care, including but not limited to abortion. In some states, thousands of transgender and non-binary people under 18 may not be able to get healthcare like hormone replacement therapies and puberty blockers.

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This pattern is holding true around the country. In Oklahoma, the strictest abortion ban in the country was passed earlier this month. The same week, Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature sent a bill to the governor that would prohibit trans kids between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade from using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity in public and charter schools. This is also the third anti-trans bill passed in the state this year. All in all, 22 states have curtailed both abortion rights and trans rights simultaneously.       

In the first four months of 2022, at least 156 bills that would limit the rights of transgender and non-binary people have been introduced, or carried over from 2021, in 36 state legislatures. 

Since January, nine states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah—have passed 18 laws barring transgender and non-binary children and adolescents from getting healthcare, using gender-appropriate facilities, and/or participating in sports. 

These nine states are also set to ban abortion following the likely U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide. 

Some states are taking a particularly hard line against reproductive health and trans rights: On the same day Arizona’s governor signed a new law banning abortion after 15 weeks, he also enacted new anti-trans laws, including one that has made providing healthcare for transgender or non-binary minors a felony punishable by fines and prison time. At least five other states that plan to ban abortions have also introduced legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for children and adolescents by rendering the provision of care also felony.

In the first four months of 2022, 156 bills that would limit the rights of transgender and non-binary people have been introduced, or been active in 36 state legislatures. (Day Wardell and Kaz Ishii for VICE News Graphics)

Alabama’s Republican governor signed a law this month that bans gender-affirming care for children and adolescents; a week later a U.S. district judge issued an injunction on parts of it. The law, as originally enacted, would have made providing medication like hormones and puberty blockers, treatments recommended by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Harleigh Walker, a 15-year-old trans girl who lives in Alabama, remembers feeling terrified when she heard the law was up for a vote. “To hear politicians speak in-depth about what the experience is like with these doctors, and have it be completely false is really frustrating,” Walker told VICE News. “Even after the injunction [in Alabama], who knows what could happen. It’s so scary to have it all going on at once. It's definitely a feeling of being attacked by legislatures and people around me.” 

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It was always hard to be trans in a conservative state, Walker says, but over the last few months , it’s become harder. She says she’s being picked on more at school and is worried about continuing to get the medical care she needs.   

“What this has done is it has empowered people to feel like the government says it's OK to discriminate or bully transgender people,” said Jeff Walker, Harleigh’s father. “People feel empowered to speak because their elected officials have let them know it's OK to do it.”

At least 138 anti-trans measures have been introduced this year or have been carried over from 2021 in state legislatures targeting trans children and adolescents, and their families and caregivers. Right now, 31 states are considering bills that would ban transgender children and adolescents from competing in sports. Of those states, 17 are poised to ban abortion, including Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Utah.

The language in these bills is often cut-and-paste. Two bills under consideration in Ohio and Louisiana, both called the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” use identical language and define people by their sex and “without regard to an individual's psychological, chosen or subjective experience of gender.” 

“The underpinning of these bills is a foundation of biological essentialism,” said Andrew Ortiz, staff attorney for the Transgender Law Center. “The idea that people can be drilled down to just their biology, and that what they’re able to do or should be able to do is determined completely by biology.” 

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Both anti-trans and anti-abortion legislation tend to equate sex with gender. In other words, they reduce people to their reproductive organs, their ability to carry fetuses to term, their chromosomes or hormones, and their physical frame. 

“[The bills] are coming from the notion that the family is the core moral unit of society and, at the center is an innate and divinely ordained balance between caregiving and breadwinning,” Gillian Branstetter, communication strategist for American Civil Liberties Union, told VICE News.

The similarity in the language across many of these bills is due, at least in part, to their authors. Many anti-abortion and anti-transgender legislation are written by, or with input from, right-wing advocacy groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Policy Alliance, and are supported by conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. 

(The Family Policy Alliance and Heritage Foundation did not respond to requests from VICE News for comment, and the Alliance Defending Freedom denied our request for an interview.) 

“These bills did not come from these Alabama lawmakers,” Jeff Walker said. “These bills come from special interest groups… to push this agenda. They shoved this right down our throat and, and they're continuing to do it in other states, to different trans families, because it fits the agenda of special interests.”

26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. (Day Wardell and Kaz Ishii for VICE News Graphics)

The crackdown on medical professionals has also been eerily similar between abortion providers and gender-affirming care providers. Abortion providers have been harassed, often violently, by anti-abortion protesters over the years; doctors have been threatened and sometimes killed. VICE News also found that doctors providing gender-affirming care have been targeted as well. 

Some reproductive-justice and transgender advocates believe the link between anti-abortion and anti-trans policy has more to do with election strategy than public policy. These issues are framed to provoke the right-wing base, and some center-right voters to turn out to the polls. “It’s an intersection between three different issues: abortion bans, voter suppression, and anti-trans bills,” said Marcela Howell, the president of In Our Own Voices: The Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a network of nonprofit groups. “All of them are connected under one very simple thing: a violation of the human rights of American citizens.” 

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“Politicians are cutting away at that,” she added. “They’re saying, ‘We will control your life.’”  

The Reynolds family in Texas doesn’t want to leave the state where their child can still receive gender-affirming care. “My career is here. My daughter is in school at the university where I work on a scholarship. Are we gonna leave all of that? Moving doesn't seem to be the thing,” she said. “Fighting seems to be the thing.”

In Alabama, Jeff Walker and his family have been planning for their worst-case scenario. “We would have to relocate,” he said, if the rights of trans kids continued to disintegrate. “We’re looking at the possibility that we would have to split the family. One parent would have to move somewhere else with Harleigh to ensure she got the care she needed, while the other stays with our son.”

People seeking abortions in the U.S. are on the move as well, if they can afford it. Some have already had to cross state lines, and even international borders.   

“These elected officials kept spouting off that they were doing this to help families,” Walker added. ”You would have to split a loving family apart.”

Tagged:

GOP, Republicans, TRANS RIGHTS, Abortion Rights, 2022 midterms

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