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Panel discusses intersection of reproductive and LGBT rights
by Matt Simonette
2016-04-30

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There is good reason for the LGBT community to be concerned with matters of reproductive choice, according to progressive activists: Those people and organizations bent on limiting women's reproductive rights invariably are the same ones seeking to subjugate the rights of LGBT individuals and families.

At government hearings, according to Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, just a few individuals from right-wing organizations such as Illinois Family Institute or Focus on the Family usually show up to testify, no matter the issue. "It's the same four white guys sitting at the table," Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove moderated a discussion on how the politics of reproductive choice overlapped with LGBT rights, among other issues, on April 28 at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior St.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson described the difficulty of moving progressive legislation through the State House. Though Illinois is usually characterized as a "blue" state, it should not be described as being "pro-choice" overall, she said, adding, "A Democratic senator from Quincy is not necessarily the same as a Democratic senator from Oak Park. …There are 102 counties, 94 of which [outside Chicago and its collar counties] look like each other."

Hutchinson said that her commitment to women's rights was inspired by her mother, who became pregnant unexpectedly just before abortion was legalized in the Roe vs. Wade decision. "I don't feel anything but sympathy for who that 19-year-old girl was in 1972."

Camilla Taylor, counsel for Lambda Legal, said, "We hope that it becomes more clear that the assault on our reproductive autonomy … is an assault on our families."

Taylor noted that "the same political dynamic is a challenge for both our communities," adding that women who have had abortions are stigmatized and, as such, will stay closeted about their decision. She also noted that lesbians, bisexual women and transgender men did need access to abortions on occasion.

Religious refusal laws, such as North Carolina's HB 2, threaten not just LGBT rights, but the rights of anyone guaranteed freedom from discrimination as well, she said. "They are trying to write new law… They shouldn't be able to undo precedent."

Ramon Gardenhire, vice-president of policy for AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ), said "a lens of intersectionality" was now needed to put so many progressive issues into perspective, noting that many struggles, including those pertaining to healthcare, still resonate from racial justice challenges.

AFC has been advocating on behalf of Illinois service providers who have struggled to make ends meet since the governor and legislature stalemated on an FY2016 budget last year. He was blunt in his assessment of the current situation, saying that the state's failure to implement a budget amounted to a "form of oppression" against its residents. He further said that different communities would have to commit to some uncomfortable conversations in order to lend support to one another's causes.

"We isolate ourselves into echo chambers," Gardenhire said. "Understanding that my being 'comfortable' makes someone else 'uncomfortable' is so powerful. Until you are able to engage in those conversations from a respectful place, we won't make a dent."


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