There’s a close connection between the religious right’s anti-trans & anti-abortion efforts

Woman holding a sign that says "Her body. Her choice."
Photo: Shutterstock

The list of policies that are advocated for by the religious right is a long one, covering everything from school prayer to US relations with Israel. But the two issues that animates white conservative evangelicals the most are abortion and LGBTQ rights.

As the current rash of anti-trans legislative bills shows, the same tactics used to attack abortion rights are now being used to go after trans rights.

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Intruding on the doctor-patient relationship and going so far as to criminalize medical interventions are chief among the tactics employed in these efforts. Legislators have introduced bills in eleven states that would ban gender-affirming care for trans minors, with a special focus on puberty blockers. That care is critically important for the mental and physical wellbeing of trans youth.

For example, a bill pending in the South Dakota legislature would subject doctors who provide gender-affirming treatment to a one-year jail sentence and a maximum fine of $2,000. (The state has already passed a ban on trans youth participating in sports, pending the governor’s signature.)

The South Dakota measure is mild compared to some others. Under a bill pending in Arizona, any health care professional who prescribes puberty blockers to a transgender patient will be committing a class II felony with a recommended sentence of up to 12-and-a-half years in prison. A bill in South Carolina would make providing the same treatment punishable by up to 20 years behind bars.

Going after medical providers is also a tried-and-true tactic the right has used to attack abortion rights. In the past, several states — including Alabama and Oklahoma — have made providing an abortion a felony, punishable, in the case of Alabama, by up to 99 years in prison.

Those kind of efforts provided the blueprint for the anti-trans measures introduced this year. It’s no coincidence that Arizona is also considering a measure that would allow doctors who perform abortions to be charged with homicide.

The legislative attack on trans youth this year is clearly a concerted effort. The language in many bills is strikingly similar. That’s not surprising, since the same few anti-LGBTQ advocates, namely the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), seems to have played a big role in promoting the measures.

ADF is best known for its promotion of religious liberty as a way to carve out exemptions to anti-discrimination protections. But it obviously sees an opportunity — no doubt in fundraising, as well — in going after minors and health care providers.

From their perspective, “redefining marriage is the first step in creating a new society based on a new perception of morality.” That includes acknowledging the existence of trans people, or as ADF prefers to worry, “a person’s biological sex is increasingly becoming interchangeable.”

While ADF is recognized primarily due to its anti-LGBTQ advocacy, it’s also very active in attacking abortion rights as well. It’s really no surprise – philosophically, the religious right sees the issues as intricately linked. Women controlling their bodies isn’t different than trans youth controlling theirs. Traditional gender roles and restrictions on sexuality is at the heart of the religious right’s beliefs.

If you’re focused primarily on one issue, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture. And the bigger picture here is that anti-trans, anti-marriage equality, and anti-abortion efforts are all the same. They are an attack on a fundamental right to make decisions about your body and what you can do with it.

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