Abortion Access for All: Two Nonprofits Embrace Gender Inclusive Language

Feature image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr


You may remember our coverage of the #ProTransProChoice campaign back in January. The campaign, organized by Beck Martens, Alice Wilder, and Calliope Wong, called on Planned Parenthood and NARAL to use more trans-inclusive language in their advocacy work.

Reproductive justice activists and trans feminist activists have long questioned the framing of reproductive health as a women’s issue. At the 2011 Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) Conference, a large reproductive justice conferences, Jos Truitt, activist and Executive Director of Development and Policy at Feministing, said:

“Stop saying and stop thinking that abortion is a women’s issue. That makes such a difference. Because it’s not just women that have abortions. Trans men have abortions. Gender queer people have abortions. Two spirit people have abortions. People who do not fit into the box of ‘woman’ have abortions.

That’s the reality we live in, and the more we pretend otherwise, the more dangerous it is for other people, and the more they are excluded by the movement. Gender is this thing that we make out of so much shit. The way we hold our hands, the length of our hair, the shape of our face, what we wear, our voices, etc. But then, for some reason, when we got to the question of what is it really, we go to what lives between your legs.

Even though that’s not how we make gender and that’s not how gender works. It’s in that assumption that gender lives in our crotches, that we end up erasing the reality that men can have abortions, men can get pregnant and give birth.”

Jos Truitt, Executive Director of Development and Policy, Feministing

Jos Truitt, Executive Director of Development and Policy, Feministing

Finally, some reproductive health and rights organizations are taking note. Last week, Fund Texas Choice, formerly Fund Texas Women, released a statement about their name change and shift toward gender-inclusive language. The name change was approved unanimously by the Fund Texas Choice board. In their statement, they explain that the decision was based on their mission to ensure access to abortion and stated: “…With a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans* people who needed to get an abortion but were not women. We refuse to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.”

choice-header300dark132ppi

Fund Texas Choice will be updating their name on all materials, writing a new gender-neutral language policy, and adding questions to their hotline intake that will “make space for queer and trans* callers to let us know their specific needs.”

On May 21, 2013, the New York Abortion Access Fund made a similar change to become a more gender inclusive organization. They said in their statement: “We want to make sure that NYAAF isn’t just working toward every woman’s right to access affordable abortion care, but every person’s right, regardless of their gender. We realized that embracing gender inclusivity is about more than not assuming the gender pronouns that our callers use or replacing “woman” with “people” everywhere on our website. Becoming gender inclusive is an important part of our values as an organization.”

In their values statements, the New York Abortion Access Fund declared, “We recognize that systems of oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and others contribute to systemic injustices in the healthcare system. NYAAF is committed to recognizing and addressing these barriers to the best of our ability.”

NYAAF logo

It is too easy to fall into the habit of talking about the “war on women” and “protecting women’s health.” As reproductive justice activists, we have to keep holding ourselves and leaders in the reproductive rights movement accountable for our language. Hopefully, including transgender and gender noncomforming people in the conversation about reproductive health will become a growing trend among abortion access and reproductive health organizations in the future.

Profile photo of KaeLyn

KaeLyn is a (femme)nist activist and the reigning Queer Fat Vegan Korean Immigrant Ms. America Pageant winner. She is a full-time community organizer, and a part-time lover/sex educator. You can find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating vegan comfort food, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Upstate NY with her partner-in-crime/spouse and their furkids: a xenophobic cat, two bossy bunnies, and two sassy guinea pigs. She and her partner blog about adding a human kid to the mix at Queer Family Matters.

KaeLyn has written 25 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

    Please log in to vote

    I’m really confused as to why trans men and other non-woman people affected by abortion aren’t leading this campaign instead of people who aren’t at all affected by abortion? Like, certainly the people affected by this exclusionary language shouldn’t completely bear the brunt of pressing for change, but their voices should be prioritized over people who aren’t affected by the exclusionary language, and certainly over people who aren’t affected by abortion even the tiniest little bit.
    I don’t know, it makes me uncomfortable to have a giant photo of Jos Truitt when this issue doesn’t affect her? Like even a little bit. And not one quote by trans men and other non-women affected by abortion? That’s just stupid and problematic.
    This conversation is important, but who you prioritize in this conversation and how you frame it is also important.

    • Thumb up 8

      Please log in to vote

      I totally agree with your point about how we center this conversation and I appreciate you calling it out. One of the folks who started the Change.org #ProTransProChoice petition earlier this year is genderqueer. I tried reaching them, to no avail. I agree that I could have done a better job making sure voices of trans men and transmasculine folks were represented here v. Jos Truitt. Totally agree. I couldn’t find anyone–even bloggers–to quote or interview. It may be that the stigma of abortion paired with the general lack of access to sexual & reproductive health care for trans men and the lack of representation in the repro justice movement is a recipe for silence. I know trans* abortion stories and discourse are out there. They must be. I’m sorry that I didn’t dig deep enough to find it. I really feel like I could have done better.

      I do want to say, though, that I think that even people who, for whatever reason, are unlikely to have an abortion have a valid reason to care about trans* inclusion in abortion politics and health-care. The right to make private, individual health care decisions and the right to bodily autonomy is something many people are impacted by, especially trans* women.

      • Thumb up 3

        Please log in to vote

        Certainly elements of reproductive rights affect more than just the obvious population and conversations need to be had about that but this piece was about abortion access and the language involved excluding trans men and other non-women affected by abortion access, or that’s how I took it? So then, it begs the question why they weren’t even present in this piece. It’s the concept of allyship, and allies being the only named people in this piece. Truitt is an abortion ALLY, and so is Wong (I am unfamiliar with the others), not affected by access or lack thereof. So their voices, when talking specifically about abortion, should not be the focus.
        But in this piece, I think I’d be uncomfortable with even cis women only being mentioned. I don’t know, I just fail to see why the only names being abortion allies, a giant photo of an ally, and no centering of the trans men and other non women.
        I appreciate you taking my feedback, though, and from the links it seems like the aforementioned allies’ voices are being centered in this campaign, making it hard to find the trans men and non women involved, but I don’t know . I was just disappointed/confused.

        • Thumb up 5

          Please log in to vote

          Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. As an ally, our best intentions are not necessarily good enough and maybe this piece could have been better. The ideal situation is that someone with lived experience could write about a topic that affects them or, at least, that we can amplify the voice of folks with lived experience. On this issue (personal stories from friends that I would never share online aside), I just didn’t find anyone who is speaking out about it. :/ We def could have not published it for that reason — that’s an option — but I feel like keeping this top of mind for allies and allied orgs in the repro justice movement is important. So I tried to write it from an ally stance. I hear your frustration, though, and I really do appreciate it.

    • Thumb up 5

      Please log in to vote

      How do you know that there are no trans men and genderqueer people working with these organizations and leading these campaigns? You’re making the assumption that they aren’t there, just because they weren’t featured in this article. Not everyone is a nationally recognized advocate like Jos Truitt, but you can bet there are other trans people working on this behind the scenes, and there is nothing wrong with that.

      Also, since when is it a problem for a trans woman to advocate on behalf of issues that affect trans men and genderqueer people? And since when does reproductive justice NOT affect trans women like Jos? Last I checked, repro justice is about having the ability and the right to control what you do with your body and how you build a family. That affects everyone, esp and including trans women, and I think it’s amazing that Jos is a loud voice for trans inclusivity in the repro health movement.

      • Thumb up 2

        Please log in to vote

        We’re not talking about the broader issue of reproductive justice. We’re talking about abortion. And no, sorry, abortion does not affect Jos Truitt, or Calliope Wong. And I did mention that yes, the broader issue of reproductive justice affects more than just people with uteruses. But abortion doesn’t. Abortion’s pretty damn specific.
        And again, I was talking specifically about this article, which does not include the people it’s talking about, just people who don’t have anything to do with abortion. I will state it again: Truitt, Wong, etc, are abortion ALLIES, and allies should never be centered in conversations. Their faces should not be fronting campaigns. They should be backing the people who are directly affected by abortion access or lack thereof, not speaking for those people. I mean, it’s pretty bad that the only people mentioned are people who will never ever need an abortion, and worse that the specific people affected by this campaign (trans men and other non women needing abortions) aren’t present.
        Clearly you missed my point. I’m glad KaeLyn didn’t, though.

        • Thumb up 1

          Please log in to vote

          I didn’t miss your point, I just think you are wrong. Are you actually arguing that trans women are “allies to abortion” and so can’t be advocates on behalf of all people who need abortions? Like…wow. Abortion affects everyone. Trans women can have partners, friends, and family members who have abortions. And trans women don’t have some magical privilege that makes them immune to the same shit cis women and trans men and genderqueer people deal with when it comes to reproductive health access.

          You’re acting like trans women are trying to take over the conversation, when it’s literally like two voices chiming in. The problem with the repro health movement isn’t that trans women are trying to take space away from trans men and genderqueer people–the problem is that so many cis women are afraid of being trans inclusive in their work.

          Also, of course we are talking about the broader issue of reproductive justice and trans inclusivity within it. That’s what the #ProChoiceProTrans campaign was all about, and these two orgs are trying to pioneer inclusivity for the whole movement, not just for abortion providers.

        • Thumb up 1

          Please log in to vote

          I understand you are frustrated that this specific article doesn’t feature quotes from trans men or genderqueer people. It’s just so weird to me that someone is trying to squash the voices of amazing, groundbreaking advocates like Jos and Calliope.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        Nah, abortion doesn’t affect trans women. Or anyone who has never had a uterus and won’t ever be faced with the need for an abortion and being unable to access one, putting them in a life or death situation at times due to that lack of access to abortion. Having a partner who needs an abortion just isn’t the same thing, ’cause it’s not their body or their choice. It’s their partner’s. By that logic, men should have a voice in the pro-choice movement, and I’m just not for that. Sorry not sorry.
        But, yeah, you are missing my point. That’s fine. Whatever. My point still stands. This article, titled “Abortion Access for All”, should not have featured Truitt or Wong or anyone else that will never be personally faced with lack of access to abortion, because allies should never be at the forefront of anything. Additionally, this article should have centered its subject, which was trans men and other non-women affected by abortion who are being excluded via language choices from pro-choice campaigns and organizations.
        Peace out, yo.

        • Thumb up 1

          Please log in to vote

          Just jumping in again. I just want to say, that at least for this article, we weren’t really trying to feature the #protransprochoice campaign or other advocacy campaigns. The Jos Truitt quote was from a panel on repro justice at one of the bestest repro justice conferences (Everyone, go!) where it was one of many topics she probably spoke about. And the quote is from, like, 2011. I don’t think Truitt has started a campaign so much as she was speaking on a panel and bringing up a topic of importance. The change.org campaign is old news.

          This article was, specifically, about two abortion access orgs changing their language to be gender-inclusive.

          I do still wish that I could have featured the stories of trans men and gender nonconforming people who have had abortion care to put this in context, but that wasn’t easily find-able. So the rehash of the #protransprochoice campaign and the Truitt quote were to provide context. But they weren’t meant to be the “meat” of the story.

        • Thumb up 5

          Please log in to vote

          As a genderfluid dfab person who is dating a trans woman and who has recently had an abortion… I would say that trans women should indeed be included in this conversation. When we went to the clinic, I had to deal with all sorts of people misgendering her because the clinic assumed I was with a cis man if I were there having an abortion. This put even more stress on me then I already had been experiencing. Then, after the procedure, she couldn’t go back in the relaxation room with me because she was trans and not cis. She was the only one at the clinic with me and after the procedure, and having her with me would have made the whole ordeal a lot less stressful and painful.

          Of course this conversation should be centered on those of us who can and do have abortions. But the treatment of our partners in clinics is incredibly important to those having abortions and their partners. This conversation has room for every detail and nuance of experience.

  2. Thumb up 6

    Please log in to vote

    A couple of weeks ago, in Ireland, a suicidal teenage girl who was a rape victim tried to get an abortion but was instead forced to have a c-section. She was an immigrant so doctors could lie to her and she wasn’t able to travel to England to get an abortion there (because of the costs and the fact that she needed a visa). If I remember it well, Autostraddle didn’t report on Savita Halappanavar either. She was another immigrant woman living in Ireland who died in 2012 after being denied an abortion when she was having a miscarriage.

    I’m glad that the priority was publishing an article focusing on women to whom this will never happen because they’ll never need an abortion about how great it is when people don’t talk about abortion as an issue that affects women.

    • Thumb up 2

      Please log in to vote

      That’s awful, Andrea, and definitely an issue of interest to me. If you are seeing news that you think we should be covering, drop us a line about it! There’s a lot of repro justice news that I’m sure we miss just because there’s only so much we can keep track of as an indie operation.

      The article was about the two nonprofit orgs that are becoming more gender-inclusive, not about Jos Trutt. I don’t understand your issue with Truitt, though. The quote I included from her was to give context to the convo repro justice advocates have been having for some time now. She was speaking on a panel and bringing up a topic that I think many of us would agree is important, but it wasn’t the only thing she spoke about, nor is the focus of the article.

      Abortion is an issue that affect women, but not only women. Anti-abortion rhetoric is inherently patriarchal and sexist. This is exactly the reason why it affects everyone. Lack of access to repro health care for trans men is about sexism, too–specifically, cissexism.

  3. Thumb up 15

    Please log in to vote

    Abortion is a women’s issue, even if sometimes people who need abortions aren’t women. The laws surrounding abortion are directed at women, because we are women. It’s about society trying to control women’s bodies, because we are women. Yes, members of all genders who need abortions should be included in the discussion, but I’m really quite bothered that because a tiny fraction of people who need abortions aren’t women, suddenly there is a push to disconnect the whole thing from women’s rights. The entire debate about abortion is firmly centered in the control of women’s bodies, so how to does it do any good to act as though this is not a women’s issue? We cannot disconnect the abortion debate from the oppression of women in our society, because the entire debate about abortion only exists because it is based around women and women’s bodies.

    • Thumb up 12

      Please log in to vote

      Thank you so fucking much for your hideous gatekeeping.

      As if we dont’t have sex with men.
      As if we don’t get raped. By men.

      As if we are some fucking fictional whiners you can mock along with the right-wingers.

      To hell with this comment.

      • Thumb up 0

        Please log in to vote

        Why is a trans woman, who can’t even get pregnant, pushing this so hard? We’ve heard nothing from the trans men/genderqueer people this is intended to help, so it doesn’t seem like it was much of an issue among them. It would be like me being upset with clothing retailers labeling men’s sections and women’s sections, because as an MOC woman I prefer shopping in the men’s section. And then I demanded that clothing companies make their departments all gender-neutral because as a woman I am uncomfortable shopping for “men’s clothes”. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people buying men’s clothes are men, and most people buying women’s clothes are women. So I just deal with it and move on. The overwhelming majority of abortions are had by women, so why not just accept the fact that abortion is an issue that for the most part only impacts women?

    • Thumb up 4

      Please log in to vote

      There is no data on this, that I know of. But what do you feel you need it for? Why is it hard to believe? I have personally spoken to trans men who have had abortions and trans and genderqueer people who have been pregnant.

      I do know that trans men and transgender people, in general, face incredibly high barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health care. Including trans and gender nonconforming people in how we frame reproductive health and rights is important for many reasons.

      As rhymeriver says, trans men are also at risk for pregnancy. They may have cis male partners or trans female partners or just generally be partnered with someone who is able to get them pregnant, however they identify. Trans people face higher rates of sexual assault than cisgender people. I am all for a more gender-inclusive repro justice movement. We are not losing anything by being more inclusive as a movement.

      • Thumb up 4

        Please log in to vote

        @KaeLyn, in last paragraph:
        I just want to clarify that I’m not talking specifically or only about trans men; I am not one myself, either.
        It’s important to me that the discussion around gender-nonconforming pregnancy does not become limited to trans men or other transmasculine people.

        • Thumb up 1

          Please log in to vote

          Yup. We are on the same page! I agree that it’s not just about trans men, but anyone who needs access to abortion care: man, woman, cis, trans, genderqueer, fluid, MOC, boi, tomboy femme, etc, etc, forever, infinity!

  4. Thumb up 17

    Please log in to vote

    I’m just going to put this out there: there’s a big difference between making spaces for non-women who need abortions and other ob-gyn care and denying that the control placed on abortion has nothing to do with women.

    I personally have no problem with the phrase ‘war on women’, because this metaphorical war is designed to hurt ”women” (in the eyes of this cissexist world, everyone with a uterus), in the sense that I feel that the phrase refers to the intent of its perpetrators.

    But I have to say I can’t even imagine the breath of oxygen that would be a world in which I am allowed to exist as myself while needing an abortion. Getting ob-gyn care is horrible when you have to pretend to identify as a woman, and I need that care often. I have to constantly psych myself not just about the invasive exams and the long waiting hours but also the forms, the gender-specific questions, the overwhelming poisonous feeling that faking it is the only way I will get proper treatment. Grind my teeth, close my eyes, and nod at the doctor.
    Undergoing gyn care and especially an abortion is an ordeal for most everyone, but having to put on a mask to get it is even worse.

    Everyone knows the problem is caused by misoginy. Why does it anger people when there is admission that misoginy hurts more than only women?

  5. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    I love that Autostraddle profiled this!! Expanding mainstream discussions of who needs access to reproductive healthcare is so important. So much <3 to NYAAF and everyone in the repro health/rights/justice movement who is working so hard on this issue.

  6. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (www.emafund.org) did this in 2007. Glad to see it is catching on. In general, I find the narrative around cis women is rooted in patriarchy and playing on the idea that women are feeble and need protection — we need to shift the conversation to autonomy, and equity for all humans.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.