Chaqya Hosea, MSW, Program Manager, Equity Forward | November 8, 2022 Blog Post

The United Nations (UN) defines human rights as, “rights we have simply because we exist as human beings - they are not granted by the state.” These range from the right to food and education, to health and liberty. The United Nations also affirms that access to culturally competent reproductive health care is a human right. As such, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and take away a person’s fundamental right to decide what is best for them mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially, is both a human rights violation and social injustice. And perhaps most poignant, the SCOTUS decision highlights this country’s refusal to adhere to a reproductive justice (RJ) framework that can provide a path forward and foster an environment in which we can all thrive. At first glance, it is difficult to understand the connections between our various progressive movements and issue areas. Thankfully, RJ provides the framework to navigate the intersections of our advocacy work. In this series, I'll cover a range of issues that are important to Equity Forward, because, as our mission states, we are committed to producing and sharing investigative research on human rights, gender equity and reproductive health, rights, and justice to demand accountability and ultimately, improve people’s lives. 

I recently graduated with my degree in social work from the University of Southern California, with a concentration in Social Change and Innovation, and am fairly new to the repro space. As I am learning new information about this movement everyday, it is important for me to look at it all through a social work lens. A phrase that I often heard during my graduate studies was “meet people where they are” –– in essence, connecting, engaging, and enacting change in a way that is effective for our client as opposed to telling people how to think or act. Through this series, in my work at an advocacy and accountability organization, I hope to meet our partners where you are and together spark ideas, conversation, and collaboration.


Creating a reality in which all people have bodily autonomy and can live lives with safety and dignity has always been the goal of reproductive justice advocates. In 1994, four Black women, known as the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, coined the phrase “reproductive justice” (RJ) to account for the intersectionality of reproductive health as it relates to historically marginalized communities. This framework goes beyond the capability to choose if, when, and how often to have children; reproductive justice seeks to positively impact our complete well-being. Utilizing this intersectional approach is necessary as it helps us understand how the many aspects of our identities, including gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, intersect. An approach rooted in RJ is also necessary to help us identify solutions, as well as other social justice issues. The first intersecting RJ social justice issue of this forthcoming series will explore LGBTQIA+ issues related to refusal of care and family building. With the recent celebration of ​​LGBTQIA+ History Month and the unprecedented political attacks on trans people, especially children, this discussion comes at an opportune time.

LGBTQIA+ communities are also part of the stigmatized and underserved populations that need access to culturally competent and gender-affirming reproductive health care. While reproductive health is often described as a “women’s issue,” there are people who do not identify as women who can get pregnant, use contraceptives, and need access to abortion care. Unfortunately, there are numerous documented cases of discriminatory practices of LGBTQIA+ communities seeking reproductive care. A recent report found that in order to avoid discrimination, more than half of LGBTQIA+ Americans report hiding a personal relationship and 15 percent report postponing or avoiding medical treatment entirely. Everyone has a right to their own religious and moral beliefs, however, those beliefs should never impact an individual's access to fundamental care. Even so, more than 1 in 8 LGBTQIA+ people live in states where doctors, nurses and other health care professionals can legally refuse to treat them.

Reproductive health implies that people should have the freedom to decide if, how, and when to have children and Equity Forward believes that everyone should have the opportunity to create the families they want. Religious refusals within the healthcare and adoption systems are another way to control how people form their families. While same-sex adoption is legal in all 50 states, there are currently 12 states that allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families. This includes LGBTQIA+ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with the organization’s religious beliefs. In the wake of Dobbs, more people who want or need abortions will instead be forced to give birth. And while research shows that people who are denied an abortion are far more likely to go on to parent than to place a child in an adoptive home, there is no denying that there will be an increase in people choosing adoption. However, the same people who are denying abortion access are also denying LGBTQIA+ people the opportunity to adopt.. Same-sex couples are seven times more likely than opposite-sex couples to build their families through adoption, so preventing same-sex families from adopting is not only harmful to their families, but also to the children in foster care by limiting the number of capable families able to care for them.

There is definitely work to be done to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people’s human rights, including reproductive rights are protected. This work should include ensuring that healthcare providers provide resources and treatment from a culturally competent lens to alleviate barriers and establish affordable, affirming, and accessible care. Moreover, the Supreme Court is tasked with ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice, however its decision to overturn a 50-year constitutional right to abortion access is anything but equality or justice. It isn’t equal justice when 43% of women between ages 18-49 living in states where abortion has become or will likely become illegal are women of color. It isn’t equal justice when a total abortion ban in the United States, which is what anti-abortion activists are seeking, could increase the number of pregnancy-related deaths by 33% among Black women. It isn’t equal justice when the U.S. has an extensive history of unequal access to healthcare, including abortion care, for people of color. With these grave injustices top of mind, Equity Forward will continue to share investigative research to ensure that elected officials are held accountable for how their decisions impact our most vulnerable communities.