Limiting Health Care Access is Life or Death for Marginalized Communities

As the clock struck midnight, “Auld Lang Syne” rang out, and 2017 was ushered in, many of us breathed a sigh of relief to have 2016 behind us. But before we could make it into the new year, conservatives let us know they have no plans to leave their oppressive policies behind.

On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that doctors can refuse to treat transgender patients and people who’ve had abortions. Citing the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, O’Connor argued that gender-based discrimination restrictions “impose a burden” on doctors exercising their religious freedom. Judge O’Connor tried to justify his decision by saying that individual doctors will not impact patients’ access to healthcare or coverage. But in reality, his verdict will severely limit healthcare options for two communities already experiencing restricted access to care.

Though abortion is a common procedure — and 1 in 3 women get an abortion — 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider at all. With the swift rise of anti-abortion policies and growing stigma, we can expect access to be reduced even further. By granting doctors the right to refuse services to people who have had abortions, O’Connor is saying that people who exercise their reproductive autonomy don’t deserve to have access to healthcare.

And while that may be a new form of discrimination for people who have had abortions, trans people have long had their healthcare options limited. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 19% of trans people have been denied medical care and, as a result 28% report that they have delayed seeking care in fear of discrimination. Judge O’Connor’s ruling gives doctors even more legal ground to restrict trans people’s healthcare options. It’s a clear condemnation of the idea that trans people and people who have had abortions have fundamental healthcare rights.

The denial of healthcare has serious physical and mental health implications, including the possibility of death. Indeed, a study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that 45,000 deaths occur every year due simply to lack of health insurance. Policies like this one will surely increase these deaths due to lack of healthcare access, even among those who are insured. 

In 2017, as we fight for reproductive and trans justice, we have to be clear that healthcare equity and dignity means affordable access to all the medical care that we need. Our lives depend on it. 

Header image via.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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