Trans Men Talk About Why They Got Abortions

Experts believe there are changes that could make getting an abortion safer and more accessible for trans people and the OB-GYNs who provide them treatment. (A 2015 survey of OB-GYNs found that nearly two-thirds did not feel comfortable treating transgender patients.)

Lowik, the trans reproductive health researcher, said, “It’s about meeting patients where they are, not making assumptions about their body parts, their reproductive health, [and] making an effort to mirror the language that your clients or patients use. Some of the changes are easy to implement, such as altering gendered language on intake forms and having gender-inclusive signs to ensure that someone who did not identify as a woman would experience a space and its service positively.”

Because some abortion service providers are geared toward cis women only, trans people often don’t feel welcome. As Ruhlin said, “If a trans man who has been on T for a while — he’s got facial hair, he’s got a deeper voice, his name is Dylan — goes to an abortion clinic, [the employees] make the assumption that he’s not the patient, or they make the assumption that this is a cis man who’s trying to pull something sketchy.”

Lowik said we should use terms like “pregnant people,” although they recognize that many people fear more people using inclusive language will spur more effective attacks on abortion access, as Carrie N. Baker and Carly Thomsen recently argued in Ms. magazine. Lowik believes this worry is unfounded, however. “This is a recycling of an old argument. Feminists in the ’70s were concerned that if they included lesbians that it would dilute the message. Lesbians were being told to wait their turn, that we would fight for the rights of heterosexual women first, and once established, lesbians would have a seat at the table and would be able to fight for their unique needs,” they said. This is not exactly what happened. Betty Friedan, cofounder of the National Organization for Women, famously called lesbians the “Lavender Menace” and fired some prominent lesbian members of the organization because she was afraid lesbians would hurt the cause of women’s rights. Lesbians were forced to form their own organizations and struggled to be accepted within the wider women’s movement.

Lowik believes that some anti-abortion groups are intentionally stoking infighting among abortion advocates because if groups “fight each other, then we’ll be less effective at working together in order to collaboratively fight the patriarchy and to fight the systems of power that are invested in keeping all of us in subordinate positions in society.”

Ignoring trans and nonbinary people will backfire, Lowik said. “I don’t think it makes sense as a political strategy to leave people behind and to tell them to wait; meanwhile, those are the people who are actually most negatively impacted, the people who are experiencing the brunt of the oppressive violence at the hands of governments and of individuals.”