The right is waging an anti-trans war against a bill on abortion

If the abortion rights polls hold true, Michigan Proposition 3 should win easily. The ballot measure would enshrine reproductive freedoms, in a state with strong public support for abortion rights.

But that’s not what Michigan voters hear about the proposal when they watch TV. There, millions of dollars of advertising show children in tears and dripping syringes. “If proposal 3 is accepted, minors as young as 10 or 11 years old will be able to receive this prescription [for hormone blockers] without the consent of their parents, or even if their parents know about it”, warns a voiceover on one of these advertisements. “They call it ‘reproductive freedom’. We call this extreme.

Third proposal does not include language about gender-affirming care. But as LGBTQ rights come under fire, right-wing opportunists have grafted transphobic talking points on fights for reproductive freedoms. The attacks are misleading and part of a larger attack on bodily autonomy, supporters say.

“We see voters across the country overwhelmingly supporting reproductive justice initiatives and supporting the provision of safe and legal abortion care,” said Amritha Venkataraman, director of the Michigan Human Rights Commission. , to the Daily Beast.

She’s right, research shows. Recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Pew Research Center found 16 points of clear support for abortion rights in Michigan, with most Michigan residents saying they support legal abortion in most cases.

“So they have to come up with a different angle to try to piss off that extremist base,” Venkataraman said.

That angle, increasingly, seems to be LGBTQ rights, particularly the rights of children and young people to receive gender-affirming care, to use the right toilets, and to play on sports teams that match their gender. A deluge of laws has banned how schools can discuss LGBTQ issues (see: Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law), and threatened to remove transgender children of their families in Texas. Bill in Michigan and Idaho could sentence parents to life in prison for providing gender-sensitive care to their children.

Republican strategists are betting on anti-trans bigotry as a broadside against Democratic candidates on Election Day. America First Legal, a group founded by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, is currently flooding swing states with ads that describe gender-affirming care as “radical gender experiments on children” that are “destroying their lives.” The ads are ‘the worst I’ve seen,’ says NAACP President Derrick Johnson says Politico.

It’s no coincidence that the often overlapping areas of abortion rights and LGBT rights are both under siege, said Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist at the Women‘s Rights Project and the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Gay people’s reproductive rights and freedom are avenues outside of a strict gender binary,” Branstetter told The Daily Beast. She pointed to organizations like the right-wing Freedom Defense Alliance, which has drafted bills restricting LGBTQ and reproductive freedoms.

“The end result of the policies they seek is to leave people with as little voice as possible in their life journey,” she said. “This includes if, when and how you start a family, as well as how you present yourself, who you love, and in particular, the very existence of transgender people in public life.”

In Michigan, dodgy campaign ads have merged transgender and abortion rights into one issue.

Michigan is one of the few states to vote directly on the right to abortion this election. The state has a 1931 anti-abortion law, which several state judges have ruled unenforceable. But with the reversal of Roe vs. Wade this year, lawmakers fear the ban will become active again. The third proposal will encode reproductive rights (including abortion, contraception, sterilization, and prenatal care) into the state constitution.

“Sterilization” includes safe and common birth control methods like vasectomy and tubal ligation. But advertisements, including a single $2.5 million TV ad buy in September suggest they will be called upon to secretly sterilize children in the name of trans rights.

Citizens To Support MI Women And Children, the political action committee behind the ads, did not return a request for comment on their ads and the fact that the proposal does not refer to gender-affirming care . group spokesperson say it Detroit Free Press that minors could use the bill to receive sterilization as part of a gender transition.

“A constitutional right to ‘sterilization’ surely includes the right to be sterilized to align one’s sex and gender identity,” the spokesperson said. “The majority of voters do not support a 12-year-old girl’s right to sterilization without her parents’ advice or consent. But it is the implication of giving this right to every ‘individual’, regardless of age.

The Citizens To Support MI Women And Children ads end with a warning about the third proposition opening ‘Pandora’s box’, alongside a chilling clip of green smoke billowing from a treasure chest. Other low-budget advertisements also circulated on the Internet. In one such case, a Michigan PAC asked a popular anti-trans Twitter account to help promote an ad that denounces Proposition 3 as “child abuse” that “protects[s] crazed militants if they want to take your child to be slaughtered. (PAC does not appear to have purchased TV airtime for the ad; instead, one of PAC’s largest expenses, per public filing, was $1,359 for the most certainly misspelled “Poppa John’s Pizza”.)

The anti-trans foray into reproductive freedom will not stop at abortion rights. Conservative groups have also set their sights on birth control measures like IUDs and hormonal birth control pills. These attacks share the language of campaigns against gender-affirming skincare and often come from outlets that smear transgender people as unnatural.

Evie magazine, a relatively new conservative women’s publication, frequently criticizes hormonal contraception, with headlines about the pill’s “major dangers” and implied warnings that it will make women fat. Much of the anti-birth control writing is written in language about supposedly natural femininity. EvieThe 2022 print theme is “back to nature” with a cover story on “The Anti-Pill Revolution: Why Women Are Saying Goodbye to Hormonal Contraception”. EvieThe founders of run 28, a period tracker app that encourages people to ditch hormonal birth control. The company is supported by a conservative megadonor Peter Thiel’s company, Thiel Capital.

The magazine is also consistently anti-trans. A recent analysis by Media Matters found a 333% year-over-year increase in anti-LGBTQ content on the Evie site, with many articles specifically disparaging transgender rights.

Branstetter, who recently sat in an Arkansas court case over gender-affirming care, said she sees parallels between panicked descriptions of birth control as unnatural and transgender treatment. All health care — from surgeries to aspirin — carries risks, she noted.

“What I saw sitting in this federal courtroom in Little Rock were attorneys on behalf of the State of Arkansas seizing on any possible risk that could possibly arise with respect to hormone replacement therapy “said Branstetter. “Putting this forward is justification for banning it and keeping these forms of medical care at a level that few forms of medical care could ever surpass.

These forms of medical care include birth control, which can include side effects, which people weigh against their desire to control if and when they become pregnant. Branstetter said the campaign to label hormonal birth control unsafe could bolster efforts to limit or ban it outright.

Campaigns against reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights are closely linked. While anti-trans arguments currently serve as cover for anti-abortion campaigns, the reverse is often true. Bills like the “Youth Health Protection Act,” an ADF effort to block affirming trans care, “draw back to now-ubiquitous laws requiring minors to obtain parental consent before putting termination of a pregnancy, which ADF also strongly supports,” Slate reported last year.

In Michigan, where Proposition 3 goes to a vote on Tuesday, reproductive rights advocates have reason to be optimistic. Vote in mid-October found that 52% of Michiganders planned to vote in favor of the proposal, while 38% planned to vote against and 10% were undecided.

Popular support could explain the side attack from an anti-trans platform, Venkataraman, the Michigan HRC director said.

“I think it’s because they know they’re losing,” she said.

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