Semantics and rhetoric: U.S. Sen. Rubio targets abortion access and transgender health care

By: - May 5, 2022 4:47 pm
transgender rights

Protestors rally for transgender rights. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is tying anti-transgender rhetoric to efforts to ban abortions, according to new legislation he’s filed and a recent tweet.

This week, a leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion indicated that the high court will likely overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973.

Rubio has been commenting on the draft ruling and abortion rights protesters.

The senator tweeted Thursday morning:

“If we have ‘pregnant people’ then how can Roe be about ‘a woman’s right to choose’?”

Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando was not having it, and replied to Rubio’s tweet:

“It’s about bodily autonomy, our collective freedoms, and right to privacy — stop trolling trans people though I guess that’s the only thing you know how to do these days.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Credit: Rubio U.S. Senate website.

Rubio’s tweet criticizes efforts by some Roe-supporters to use gender-inclusive language when discussing abortion rights. The term “pregnant people” works to encompass all those who may seek abortions, which would include cisgender women, transgender men and non-binary people.

Abortion rights advocates have been protesting in support of upholding abortions access, with some emphasizing the need to include transgender people, who do not identify as women but still may need abortions, in those discussions.

Not every pro-abortion advocate uses gender-inclusive language, and even those who use inclusive language may slip up and just refer to “women’s” right to abortions.

Rubio’s tweet tries to paint this as an inconsistency among pro-abortion advocates and their attempts to support abortion access through Roe v. Wade.

This isn’t the only target on transgender people that Rubio has tied to abortion.

This week, he filed a bill called the “No Tax Breaks for Radical Corporate Activism Act,” according to a press release sent out by his office Wednesday.

The goal, according to the press release, is to “prohibit employers from deducting expenses related to their employees’ abortion travel costs or so-called ‘gender affirming care’ for young children of their employees.”

The bill simply says that such deductions cannot occur for “travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion,” but goes on for 6.5 pages on the specifics of the transgender care.

It defines gender as the “psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female.”

The bill defines a gender transition procedure as “any medical or surgical services which seeks to alter or remove physiological or anatomical characteristics or features which are typical for the individual’s biological sex, or to instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics which resemble a sex different from the individual’s birth sex, for the purpose of gender transition.”

This includes puberty-blocking drugs and certain hormone replacement therapies, as well as various surgeries which are rarely recommended for trans kids under 18 years old.

But it makes exceptions for intersex people who have ambiguous sex characteristics or other physicians-diagnosed disorder of sexual development.

Transgender advocates have been highlighting the connection between bodily autonomy, access to abortion and transgender health care for some time.

LGBTQ Nation, a online news site, reported in March:

“As is often the case, the forces opposed to body autonomy for cisgender women also oppose it for trans people. It is clear that this is one fight, but for decades, there has been an over-emphasis on cisgender women in the reproductive rights movement and transgender people have been left out and left behind.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.