Abortion and reproductive rights don’t always cross one’s mind as part of the issues affecting the LGBTI community.
People tend to think terminating a pregnancy only applies to straight women, since only opposite-sex sexual encounters can lead to getting pregnant.
But it is self-evident that bisexual women in opposite-sex relationships can get pregnant too. Nonetheless, their experiences are often erased and deemed ‘not LGBTI enough’. Moreover, a pregnancy can be the result of a sexual assault and that could concern anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Therefore, abortion is an issue of interest to the whole LGBTI community.
All women, including non-binary people and trans men with uteruses can get pregnant.
This means they have the right to access safe procedures to abort without facing stigma. And the whole LGBTI community needs to learn how to be an ally to them.
Bi and lesbian girls are more likely to have an early pregnancy
A 2015 study found these women are almost twice as likely as straight-identifying women to get pregnant before the age of 20.
A more recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University, the City University of New York and San Diego State suggests ‘young women who are sexual minorities may try to avoid or cope with the stigma related to their sexual orientation’ by having sex with men. This then puts themselves at risk for pregnancy.
Factors for why lesbian and bisexual women experience this stigma can come from disapproving family members or bullying.
Lesbian women may also feel pressured to ‘prove’ they’re straight, in order to avoid this stigma.
The study said: ‘Victims and perpetrators [of bullying] are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-regard, which may elevate their teen pregnancy risk.’
According to the study, lesbians and bisexuals are especially likely to have sexual experiences earlier than straight women. They may also experience higher rates of sexual abuse at an earlier age.
‘A friend raped me at 16’
Natasha McCracken is a young bisexual woman. She had two unwanted pregnancies throughout her life, one of which was the result of a sexual assault.
‘I lost my virginity when I was 15,’ she said. ‘I had started taking birth control when I was 14 because I have what I now know is endometriosis.
‘This caused debilitating menstrual pains and other symptoms like nausea, weight inconsistency, depression, irregular periods, and other issues.
‘The symptoms all contributed to me not realizing I was pregnant,’ she recalled.
A friend raped her when she was 16. That experience scarred her for life and prevented her from continuing the relationship with her boyfriend at the time.
‘My rapist was a couple of years older than me,’ she told Gay Star News. ‘I didn’t tell my boyfriend until after I left him when I found out I was pregnant.
‘I just couldn’t be touched without panicking. We tried a couple of times, but each time I had a panic attack and had to leave.’
‘Why couldn’t you just sleep with girls?’
Natasha is from Southern Oregon. She faced rejection when she finally made her decision to terminate the pregnancy.
‘I have known a lot more women – bi and straight – who have children because abortion is something they wouldn’t even consider,’ she said.
‘I wouldn’t go as far as to assume none of them have had abortions, but this definitely isn’t the town to talk about that in. This is the type of town where women marry men and never talk about the fact that they’re bi, and not wanting children is unacceptable.’
Some of Natasha’s friends were unsympathetic to her pregnancy and suggested she just stick to sleeping with girls to avoid getting pregnant.
She also faced criticism from some of her friends in the LGBTI community.
‘The people who asked me why I didn’t just sleep with girls were a couple of friends from high school,’ she clarified.
‘One of them was a gay man. The other was a bi woman, who ended up having a kid right after she graduated with her high school boyfriend,’ she said.
Natasha was awake during the whole procedure
Her first abortion was one of the toughest experiences she has ever gone through. She was awake during the whole procedure.
After the surgery, she said: ‘[I] was bleeding so much I was pale and woozy. The doctor asked if I had “learned to be more careful”. I looked up at him with such hatred and said, “I was raped.”‘
The post-operative process prolonged her physical and mental pain.
‘I spent three weeks after that bleeding almost every time I stood up, to the degree that I wore adult diapers. I was unable to eat, having nightmares, and afraid of intimacy.’
When her pregnancy test was positive again at 20, Natasha immediately thought of that first procedure.
She opened up to a nurse at Planned Parenthood who was in shock hearing what she went through. The nurse assured her this time was going to be different.
‘I went in, they put me under, and I woke up to the nurse asking me if I was alright,’ she said.
She then added: ‘I went home, I slept, and I was sore for a couple of days. I wish I had found LoveJoy [a clinic in Portland] before, and I wish everyone had this experience. Sadly, I know that many of us have had experiences like my first one.
‘The access to abortion [in America] is definitely there, but the faux morality that people use to justify their objection is very prevalent,’ she said.