The intertwined attacks on abortion and gender-affirming care in Indiana

May 25, 2023 7:00 am

The same lawmakers that don’t want people to be able to make decisions about their pregnancies also don’t want transgender people to be able to make decisions about their medical care. (Getty Images)

In the Indiana Statehouse, our bodies have become battlegrounds as politicians seek to pass extreme bans on abortion, restrict access to birth control and medication abortion, and keep transgender people from accessing the care that they need.

This past year has been devastating for our right and ability to make personal decisions about our own bodies and medical care. We saw the end of the protections from Roe v. Wade, the passage of a near-total abortion ban in our state, and now a ban on gender-affirming medical care for youth. And we know that these attacks won’t stop with abortion and gender-affirming care; all of our rights, to make decisions about our bodies, families, and health, are at stake right now.

Across the country, the election last November was a victory for reproductive freedom: In every state where abortion was on the ballot, voters showed up to send the message that they want legal, accessible abortion in their state. Polling in Indiana also shows that the majority of Hoosiers oppose a ban on abortion. Voters all over this country clearly believe that politicians shouldn’t be in control of our lives and our bodies — we should. 

And while the Indiana abortion ban is currently blocked in court, there is already speculation that if the Indiana Supreme Court rules the ban unconstitutional, Indiana legislators will immediately come back to the Statehouse to pass the ban in another form, despite Hoosiers’ opinions.

The same lawmakers that don’t want people to be able to make decisions about their pregnancies also don’t want transgender people to be able to make decisions about their medical care. The ACLU of Indiana recently filed a lawsuit against Senate Enrolled Act 480, a ban on gender affirming care that would strip away young transgender people’s ability to access necessary and life-saving health care.

Your body, your decision

The fight for abortion access and access to gender affirming care are linked by a simple belief — you are the rightful author of your own life story. Both abortion and gender-affirming care give us the freedom to determine our own paths in life and to defy barriers that oppress and erase women and LGBTQ people. Indiana elected officials who want to strip us of that freedom want to write your story for you, deciding who you are, what you do with your body, and if or when you start a family. These efforts are designed to target people who are already marginalized in our country, particularly young people, those trying to make ends meet, and people of color.

Indiana’s ban on gender affirming care and other new laws that attempt to erase members of the LGBTQ community are all interrelated and aim to remove privacy, choice, and representation for LGBTQ people, but the implications affect everyone’s civil liberties and civil rights. 

Limiting freedom for trans people worsens conditions for all minority groups and women, by re-entrenching the very gender stereotypes that have underpinned centuries of women’s oppression. The original language of House Enrolled Act 1608, an anti-LGBTQ bill recently signed into law, sought to ban outright conversations around gender roles and stereotypes in the classroom. For centuries, laws and policies premised on women’s biological capacities and “delicate” nature were used to shut women out of educational, economic, and civic opportunities.

On these grounds, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld laws barring women from becoming attorneys — or bartenders. Similar “biological” arguments were used to exclude Black women from “the fairer sex” in order to justify extraction of Black women’s labor under the institution of slavery and beyond.

By tearing down laws and policies based on gender stereotypes, we can create the opportunity for each of us to determine our own life story.   

The ACLU of Indiana will never stop fighting for the freedom of all people to fully control our bodies, lives, and futures. And as long as Indiana politicians continue to ignore the clear will of the people, we’ll see them in court.


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Katie Blair
Katie Blair

Katie Blair is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the ACLU of Indiana. She spearheads the organization’s coalition and legislative work on issues like privacy and surveillance, LGBTQ rights, smart justice, immigrant rights, reproductive justice and voting rights.