Spotlighting the Hyde Amendment, op-ed explores intersection of reproductive, transgender rights

September 15, 2016 — In an opinion piece for the Texas Observer, columnist Nan Little Kirkpatrick spotlights the intersection of reproductive and transgender rights by detailing the link between the Hyde Amendment and a lawsuit challenging a federal "rule change meant to protect trans people from discrimination in health care."

According to Kirkpatrick, the Hyde Amendment, which "block[s] federal funds from covering abortion," disproportionately affects "people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, young people and rural communities."

Kirkpatrick explains that the lawsuit against the antidiscrimination rule cites a ban on federal funding for abortion care several times to justify "discrimination in the provision of health care for trans people." In that lawsuit, Kirkpatrick writes, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin "claim that including gender identity under the definition of 'sex,' for purposes of anti-discrimination language, is a redefinition of the word." According to those states, the rule "will force doctors to act contrary to their religious beliefs when providing care such as gender confirmation surgery or hormone replacement therapy for trans people."

According to Kirkpatrick, the plaintiffs' reliance on the Hyde Amendment in the lawsuit "makes sense" because the amendment "is discrimination in health care against low-income people ... and it is an example of the government blocking the ability of people to exercise their reproductive rights as granted by the Supreme Court." She writes, "This lawsuit expressly highlights the ways that the movements for trans and reproductive justice intersect."

Kirkpatrick continues, "When people don't have the lived experience to understand what it's like to face barriers to health care, it's easy to dismiss and misunderstand the harm such obstacles cause." Relating a conversation she had with a Texas legislator's wife, who questioned who would not be able to afford $500 for an abortion, Kirkpatrick writes, "It's easy for her to dismiss the ways economic injustice intersects with reproductive health care access" because she likely has not lived paycheck-to-paycheck or been without private health insurance. Similarly, Kirkpatrick notes that "[f]or those who are not trans, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be trans and how barriers to gender-affirming health care are an issue of life and death."

The "lawsuit and the continued injustice of Hyde highlight how easily the most marginalized can be pushed out and left behind," Kirkpatrick writes. She cites a recent Texas court ruling "block[ing] federal guidelines regarding schools providing access to the right bathrooms for trans students, and another federal court ... rul[ing] that it was legal for a funeral home to fire a transgender employee because of the business owner's religious beliefs." Similarly, regarding restrictions on abortion access, Kirkpatrick highlights how the state's omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) "block[ed] reproductive justice for low-income Texans and undocumented people" by "leaving low-income, rural people hundreds of miles from the nearest abortion provider." She adds, "We expect more discriminatory anti-abortion laws to come in the 2017 legislative session."

Kirkpatrick writes, "For those of us fighting for abortion access, it is essential to see how our struggle is tied up with trans people working for justice, just as it is important for everyone whose bodily autonomy is threatened to recognize the ways in which our government has already codified discrimination." She concludes, "Whether it's access to abortion, access to the gender confirmation care of our trans siblings' choosing, or access to health care in general for millions of uninsured Texans, ending Hyde is about pushing back on decades of oppression that we see reflected everywhere around us" (Kirkpatrick, Texas Observer, 9/9).