Anti-trans laws & abortion bans force thousands to travel for care. They don’t have to do it alone.

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Across the country, thousands of women, minors, pregnant people, parents and their children, are being forced to travel far from their homes, across state lines, to receive the critical, medically-necessary, life-saving care that they or their loved ones require. These involuntary trips often require days-long road trips, expensive flights, costly hotels, lost wages, and expensive child care – and result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional expenses. 

These are real people. Kate Cox, a Texas mother of two, was forced to travel out-of-state to terminate a pregnancy, a decision she had made in order to protect her health and future fertility, after the 20 week fetus she carried was diagnosed with trisomy 18, a fatal condition. A mom named Katie was forced to drive her son Ray eight hours across state lines when their home state of Mississippi banned access to his gender-affirming care.

Across the United States, these trips are necessary for thousands of families because of anti-trans laws and abortion restrictions that are fundamentally changing the ability to access basic healthcare. This erosion of freedom is a part of an intentional campaign by an extreme right-wing political movement to control our bodies and our lives.

Twenty-two states now ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This means that 35% of transgender young people in the U.S. live in a place where they are unable to access the care that is supported by every reputable medical society in the country,  care that research shows is safe and can be life-saving. For those living in the Southeast, it is a minimum twelve hour road trip to reach Virginia, New Mexico, or Illinois where they can legally receive the care they need. That’s why the Campaign for Southern Equality launched the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project, which helps families understand the rapidly shifting landscape, identify out-of-state healthcare options and provides emergency grants of $500 to defray the financial burdens of the bans.

Twenty-one states ban abortion or impose significant restrictions on the procedure, and fourteen states ban abortion outright. Women and pregnant people have long been forced to travel to access abortion, even before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, but those numbers have skyrocketed since that decision – with nearly one in five abortion seekers being forced to travel out of state to access care in 2023. At the Brigid Alliance, where we provide all-inclusive, individualized transportation and logistical help to people who must travel for abortion services, we found that our clients have been forced to travel 30% longer distances – an average of 1,300 miles roundtrip – since Dobbs

Accessing abortion and gender-affirming care has never been easy. Even before Roe was overturned, 89% of U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider. And in the South, providers of gender-affirming care were so sparse that the Campaign for Southern Equality developed the “Trans in the South” guide just to help trans people understand their options, which were sometimes hours away. The rollbacks of the past two years, however, have made access even more dire. 

And while The Brigid Alliance and the Campaign for Southern Equality are part of an ecosystem of support organizations helping people through an increasingly hostile environment, we can’t ignore the larger problem. 

Our country is racing toward a seismic shift, toward a future where there are “Two Americas” in terms of access to basic – and often life-saving – health care.

Because here’s the truth: While these bans aim to stop people from accessing certain healthcare, they are often not actually stopping care. Instead, they are making the care much more expensive, much more burdensome, and forcing people to travel through nightmarish itineraries. People who need an abortion – and have the means – will find a way to get an abortion. Parents whose children need gender-affirming medication – and have the means – will find a way to get that medication. 

The Brigid Alliance and the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project exist to make sure that those that do not have the means to access this care get the support, both financial and logistical, they need. 

But this isn’t a long-term solution – and it’s urgent that Americans wake up to the extreme, right-wing Christian Nationalist movement that is leading the attack on our rights. We must recognize that the Venn diagram of attacks on abortion care and attacks on gender-affirming care is practically a circle.

While this extremist movement does hold significant political power in some States, they do not represent the broad majority of Americans in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia that enthusiastically support abortion rights and LGBTQ+ equality. In every election since Dobbs where abortion has been on the ballot (and additional races that were defined by candidates’ differences on abortion policy, like in Virginia and Kentucky), voters have chosen to protect or expand abortion access. And in Ohio, Republican politicians pushed through draconian anti-trans laws and did everything they could to resist progress on abortion access just months after voters unequivocally approved a ballot measure affirming the right to access abortion care. 

We have the numbers, but to effectively resist this oppression, we must start by naming our overlapping alliances and priorities, work together to build innovative pathways to care, and stand in solid commitment for a future where people can access critical healthcare without leaving their home state. 

Serra Sippel is the interim executive director of the Brigid Alliance. The Brigid Alliance provides practical support for people seeking abortion care, offering travel, food, lodging, child care and other logistical support for people seeking abortions and working with a dedicated client services coordinator to get them to their appointments.  

Allison Scott is the Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality. Through the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project, CSE has supported more than 600+ families and individuals in navigating bans on gender-affirming care, distributing more than $400,000 in direct emergency assistance to families since the start of 2023.

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