The Intertwined Attacks on Abortion and Gender-Affirming Care

We’re poised to fight back against efforts to control our bodies and limit access to essential health care.

Across the country, our bodies have become political battlegrounds. Politicians are passing extreme bans on abortion, restricting access to birth control and medication abortion, and keeping transgender people from accessing the care that they need.

It’s happening here in South Dakota, too.

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 consequences of South Dakota’s total ban on abortion without exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the pregnant person, and now a ban on gender-affirming medical care for youth.

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.

Join us for the fight ahead!

Trans rights protest image

A protester displays a sign at the “Stop Criminalizing Trans Existence” protest in Sioux Falls on Feb. 1, 2020. The protest was in response to bills introduced during the 2020 legislative session. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

But liberty grants us the ability to determine our own paths in life and shape our futures. Medical decisions, who we love, and how we show up in the world should be up to us. Our ability to determine our present and future lives, after all, is fundamental to achieving the liberty guaranteed to everyone in the U.S. Constitution. There is no liberty, however, without self-determination.

"The fight for abortion access and access to gender-affirming care is linked by a simple belief — you are the rightful author of your own life story."

One of the most sacred freedoms of self-determination is our right to our own bodies, or bodily autonomy. Both abortion and gender-affirming care are bodily autonomy issues. These issues are interconnected not only because they’re both hot-button issues in the media, but also because the movement to attack transgender rights is driven by many of the same actors who worked to eliminate abortion rights in the United States. This effort has been underway for decades and relies on secrecy and conspiracy. They are using similar tactics and the two movements have a common goal: control over our bodies.

The fight for abortion access and access to gender-affirming care is 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+ and Two Spirit people. South Dakota 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 when – or if – you start a family.

South Dakota’s ban on gender-affirming care (set to take effect July 1) and the total ban on abortion are interrelated and aim to remove privacy, choice and representation for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people and abortion seekers, but the implications affect everyone’s civil liberties and civil rights.

Limiting freedom for abortion patients and trans people worsens conditions for everyone. Last year, state Rep. Jon Hansen proposed making it more difficult to travel out of state to access abortions. Just last month, conservative members of Minnesota’s Legislature sent a letter to Gov. Kristi Noem requesting South Dakota penalize travel for transgender minors into other states for gender-affirming care. If either suggestion were to become law, women and families crossing the South Dakota-Minnesota border would be subject to unreasonable stops by law enforcement and privacy violations, for the very narrow purpose of identifying potential abortion seekers or youth seeking gender-affirming care.

Any governmental intrusion into our right to bodily autonomy, inclusive of reproductive rights and the right to live as the gender you identify as, robs us of the agency we need to meaningfully drive our own narratives.


A version of this column also appeared in South Dakota Searchlight