We don't typically publish letters from organizational bodies, but this week we're making an exception. As Pride month winds to a close, the upcoming Senate vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in favor of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell's American Health Care Act would strip health insurance from 23 million vulnerable Americans (according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office), as well as de-fund vital health organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Maine GOP Senator Susan Collins came out in opposition to the repeal Monday, joining Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Rand Paul (R-KY) as key opposition to the bill. As a way of acknowledging the significance of the moment, we're happy to share a word from Planned Parenthood here. - Ed.
Every June, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities around the world come together to celebrate our resilience, strength, and activism. The annual parades and events commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when LGBTQ people stood up to police brutality and pushed back against systematic discrimination, affirming our right to be ourselves, safely and proudly. Today, that fight for full civil rights continues.
Many young people have found the courage and support to be their most authentic selves because of the brave pioneers who came before them. Yet despite the recent gains made in marriage equality and the increasing visibility of LGBTQ people in American media, athletics, and the military, LGBTQ rights are in a precarious state. We face a conservative backlash and a government stacked with people determined to strip away our rights and push us back into the darkness of the closet.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer communities have unique health care needs. LGBTQ people experience greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than non-LGBTQ people. Those with layering identities — whether as a person of color, a person who may be low income, and/or someone who is undocumented — can face even more barriers to care. At Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, we take pride in providing high-quality, compassionate health care for LGBTQ people in our community, including vital health care services like cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment and birth control — regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.
In Maine, we’re proud to be one of 17 states where Planned Parenthood offers hormone replacement therapy (HRT), either estrogen or testosterone, for transgender patients. In fact, we were one of the first states to do so. We see this critical service as one that goes to the heart of our mission: care, no matter what.
It’s why people like Oliver and Angelica come to us for their care. As Oliver wrote, “Planned Parenthood was one of the few places where I felt safe asking for help. I knew I would be treated with respect.” And Angelica said, “Everyone at Planned Parenthood has been extremely respectful of my gender identity. I don’t know where I would go without Planned Parenthood.”
Gay and bisexual men and transgender women — particularly those of color — continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV. At Planned Parenthood, we provide HIV testing and links to care, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily drug regimen that helps prevent HIV when taken correctly.
We also know that LGBTQ youth lack accurate and queer-inclusive sex education. Planned Parenthood strives to offer such programs, as well as provide safe and supportive environments that allow youth to get the information and support they need to make healthy decisions and feel comfortable in their identities. One of our patients, Sean, told us that Planned Parenthood has consistently provided him and his friends the services they’ve desperately needed: “many of us grew up in traditionally conservative and religious households that denied us access to education and meaningful assistance...We would not be in the places we are today if not for Planned Parenthood.”
LGBTQ people, young and old, have found the courage to stand up to oppression year after year, and to push this country forward. Pride Month is the perfect time for their parents, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, and friends to also stand firm against those who would seek to deny rights or services to LGBTQ people, simply because of who we are or whom we love.
Everyone deserves access to expert, affordable health care and protection from discrimination. Planned Parenthood understands that the struggle for LGBTQ liberation is deeply connected to justice for all. This month, we reaffirm our commitment to building a world where no one experiences discrimination or violence because of their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
In July, the Senate will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and “defund” Planned Parenthood. We don’t know if they will be successful. What we do know is that this month, and every month, we will continue to fight back against attacks on Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ community and ensure that these doors stay open and our health centers remain a safe space to access quality, affordable health care for everyone.
Jeremy Kennedy is the Director of Advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund.