LGBTQ Agenda: NCLR, 90 other LGBTQ orgs sign on to letter to protect abortion access

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 3, 2022
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In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a Mississippi abortion rights case, 91 LGBTQ organizations have signed an open letter calling on policymakers at all levels of government to protect access to abortion services. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Supreme Court<br>
In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a Mississippi abortion rights case, 91 LGBTQ organizations have signed an open letter calling on policymakers at all levels of government to protect access to abortion services. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Supreme Court

The San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with 90 national and regional LGBTQ organizations, has issued an open letter calling "on policymakers at all levels and in all branches of government to do everything in their power to protect access to abortion care."

The letter was issued in advance of the expected U.S. Supreme Court decision this month or in early July in the case out of Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. A bombshell leak in early May revealed Justice Samuel Alito's draft majority opinion indicating the court was prepared to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion and a subsequent ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The court now has a conservative 6-3 majority, thanks to three appointments made by then-President Donald Trump during his four-year term in office. Roe, in 1973, said there is an implied right to privacy and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution that covers the right to choose an abortion. Casey, in 1992, said that states could regulate abortion once a fetus becomes viable as long as the regulations did not create an undue burden to those who seek an abortion.

With the expectation of Roe being overturned or substantially weakened, civil rights organizations around the country are on full alert.

The letter, dated June 2, includes signatories from a wide variety of groups from throughout the United States ranging from LGBTQ rights group Outright Vermont and the National Council of Jewish Women to Colorado-based Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center, and national civil rights group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Several California organizations have also signed on including San Francisco-based Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research and Our Family Coalition; Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization; the Los Angeles LGBT Center; Berkeley-based Oasis Legal Services; the Spahr Center in Marin County; and the Transgender Law Center in Oakland.

Julianna Gonen, NCLR federal policy director stated, in a news release accompanying the letter, that the anticipated ruling would turn the Constitution's guarantee of liberty into "a hollow promise."

"If the court overrules Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, allowing states to outlaw abortion, the fundamental right to bodily autonomy and the ability to determine one's own destiny will vary wildly depending on the state in which someone lives," she stated. "While this patchwork has been present to some degree in the past, it will grow far worse as some states rush to pass new laws to make abortion inaccessible or outright illegal."

Taking down Roe v. Wade, many fear, could open the path to overturning other Supreme Court decisions that are also important to LGBTQ Americans. Calling the potential loss of national abortion rights "catastrophic" Gonen spelled out what else is at risk.

"And the legal rationale detailed in the leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization could weaken other fundamental rights like sexual intimacy and marriage equality," she stated. "The threat is real, it is multifaceted, and we must all join together to meet it head-on."

The letter itself calls upon policymakers "in all branches and at all levels of government to use every mechanism at their disposal to ensure that abortion care remains not only legal, but also available and accessible to all who need it."

Tying together the right to abortion with the right to "sexual privacy and to marry who we love," the letter points out that rising hostility to LGBTQ rights goes hand in hand with the drive to end access to legal abortion.

Overturning its own decision to guarantee abortion rights means, the letter continues, that the Supreme Court itself is no longer a guarantor of individual rights, and "now we know that even bedrock U.S. Supreme Court precedents are subject to reversal when political fortunes shift."

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Gonen wrote that NCLR, after the ruling is issued, "will carefully analyze its legal reasoning and assess how it might affect our future work representing LGBTQI+ people."

Other groups are watching, as well. While they didn't announce a strategy for dealing with a possible overturn of Roe, Equality California spokesperson Jorge Salinas told the B.A.R. in an email, "We are following the issue closely and deeply committed in protecting access to abortion."

The ruling, when it comes, only marks the beginning of all the work that will need to be done, said Gonen.

"We will join forces with others in our movement, and in the movements for reproductive health, rights and justice, in demanding that leaders in other branches of government step up to fill the void," she said. "This includes, among other things: legislative protections for abortion rights, better insurance coverage and government funding for services, increased access to medication abortion, physical and financial protections for providers, and the dissemination of accurate information.

"Of course ultimately it will be up to voters to replace those in power who do not support the principles of reproductive justice with those who do," she added.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact Eric Burkett at [email protected]

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