A Q&A with NCLR’s Federal Policy Director in a Post-Roe America – Rights History
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A Q&A with NCLR’s Federal Policy Director in a Post-Roe America

On June 26, 2022, the Friday of Pride weekend for many major cities, the United States Supreme Court announced the reversal of Roe v. Wade with their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. We wanted to catch up with our Federal Policy Director Juliana S. Gonen to find out more about what this means for the LGBTQ community and our families – and what NCLR is doing to ensure reproductive justice for everyone going forward. 

What was your initial reaction when then the official Dobbs decision came out?

While this sounds contradictory, I was both shocked and not at all surprised. As soon as the Supreme Court decided last year to accept the case from Mississippi, it was clear that the right to abortion was in grave danger. And of course, the leak of the majority opinion in May preliminarily confirmed those fears. But despite being “ready,” it was still deeply unnerving to read the final decision and the utter lack of appreciation by the majority of the Court for the harm it was about to unleash upon so many people. Weeks later, I still find myself experiencing the shock over and over again as I realize that we are now living in a post-Roe America.

What work are you doing now to help protect abortion access? How does it compare to what you were doing before the decision came out?

Reproductive health, rights, and justice have been core to NCLR’s mission for decades, and in recent years, as attacks on abortion have ramped up, so has our work in that arena. Before Dobbs, we focused our efforts primarily on: 1) providing LGBTQ amicus support in all of the key abortion cases that went before the Supreme Court, and 2) on public education, writing numerous blogs and op-eds lifting up the strong connections between the movements for reproductive justice and for LGBTQ rights and equality. In the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, our attention has been on directing our movement toward efforts to ensure access to care, like supporting abortion funds and practical support organizations, as well as on highlighting the threat that the reasoning in the Dobbs decision poses to LGBTQ people. In the medium and longer term, we will be partnering with sister organizations in both movements to develop new legal theories and arguments to shore up the fundamental rights common to us all and to ensure that access to health care, sexual intimacy, and marriage equality is protected.

Why is access to abortion an LGBTQ issue?

While this might surprise some people, LGBTQ people need abortion care. Lesbian, bisexual, and other non-heterosexual women are at least as likely as other women to experience unintended pregnancies and sometimes require abortion care. But in addition to this very direct impact, the movements for reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality share the fundamental goal of control over our own bodies – the freedom to decide whether to become or remain pregnant, whether and with whom to have intimate relationships, and whether to seek medical care to help our bodies align with our gender identities. We also challenge traditional gender norms. We do this as LGBTQ people when we partner romantically with someone of the same sex, or when we live our lives based on the gender we know ourselves to be, rather than the gender assigned to us at birth. Similarly, women who choose to end a pregnancy also defy stereotypical expectations that women must elevate childbirth over all else. Reproductive and LGBTQ rights also share a similar legal grounding; the cases recognizing the constitutional right to privacy that struck down bans on birth control and abortion formed the foundation for subsequent cases affirming essential rights for LGBTQ people. That’s one reason why the Dobbs decision is so deeply troubling.

Anything else you’d like people to know? 

At this moment, we in the LGBTQ movement must do two things at the same time: take seriously the threat to key Supreme Court precedents protecting our rights to sexual intimacy and marriage equality, while keeping our focus squarely on the immediate crisis unfolding right now for people seeking abortion care. The Supreme Court majority tried to separate the right to abortion from other fundamental liberty rights, but we know better. We need to be loud and unrelenting in our opposition to the disappearance of the constitutional right to abortion and be vigilant in our defense of the full range of individual liberty rights that are essential to the health and well-being of us all.

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