Issues: Reproductive Rights

Equal access to healthcare and reproductive rights are civil rights.

LGBT individuals are entitled to healthcare free of prejudice. NCLR’s advocacy is focused on eradicating barriers faced by LGBT people in accessing health care or protecting themselves and their family members in times of crisis. Whether making arrangements for living wills, entering senior or convalescent facilities, undergoing sex reassignment treatment, or planning a family, NCLR works to ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect.

1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade established that all people in this country have a fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom encompasses a woman’s right to choose, a physician’s right to provide the care that he or she believes is medically appropriate and necessary to his or her patients without unwarranted interference from the government, and full and equal access to healthcare for all people, including equal access to assisted reproduction. The current United States Supreme Court has placed these freedoms in jeopardy; however, NCLR is working with other civil rights organizations to protect and advance these precious human rights.

As LGBT people create families, legal challenges arise, specifically around access to healthcare. Through our legal gains in family law over the years, we have made significant advances in securing our rights to adoption and parenting. The complementary legal gain to this advancement is reproductive freedom for everyone, regardless of LGBT or HIV status. The ability to create and have a family should be available to all.

Everyone is entitled to full and equal access to healthcare. NCLR’s case on behalf of Jenniffer Spencer exemplifies the devastating effects of discriminatory policies. NCLR, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, and the law firm of Stoel Rives, LLP is suing the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) on behalf of Spencer, seeking to ensure that she receives medically necessary care. Since 2004, the Idaho Department of Corrections has denied Spencer, a transgender woman, appropriate medical treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Spencer has made more than 75 written requests for evaluation and treatment, but the IDOC failed to follow its own policies for transgender inmates and displayed deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs. On July 27, 2007, the court granted Spencer’s motion for preliminary injunction and ordered the IDOC to immediately begin providing her with appropriate female hormone therapy.

NCLR will not stop fighting until this kind of injustice ends.

news & opinion


NCLR Responds to Introduction of Federal Immigration Reform Legislation
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
4.17.13—Today, a bipartisan group of Senators who have been working on a plan to fix the current broken U.S. immigration system released their long-awaited proposal for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The bill, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, presents a massive overhaul to many aspects of our current approach to immigration. The plan provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people, including an expedited process for DREAMers, creates new types of visas, and requires the government to clear the high backlog for family-sponsored visas.

Press Release

CA Governor Signs Bill Ensuring Equal Access to Fertility Services for Same-Sex Couples
9.28.12—Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to ensure that women in same-sex relationships and single women can access fertility services on the same terms as women in different-sex relationships. Assembly Bill 2356, authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and co-sponsored by Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, allows women using known donors to access certain fertility procedures that are less expensive and more effective.


Affordable Care Act Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination
Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.
8.6.12—The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The clarification, issued earlier this month, came in response to a letter submitted by NCLR and several other LGBT organizations. The letter from HHS confirmed that the anti-discrimination protections in section 1557 of the ACA, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, include discrimination on the basis of gender identity.


NCLR Responds to Supreme Court Decision Upholding the Affordable Care Act
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
6.28.12—Today, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and ruled that the individual mandate, which requires most individuals to buy health insurance, is constitutional. The Court upheld the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, but also ruled that states that do not comply with the expanded Medicaid provisions cannot be denied existing Medicaid funds.

from the docket

Victory! (Idaho)

Gammett v. Idaho State Board of Corrections
Jenniffer Spencer is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for possession of a stolen car and a failed escape attempt that occurred when she was a teenager. Since she has been incarcerated in Idaho, Spencer, a transgender woman, made repeated requests—75 in total—for treatment for her gender identity disorder (GID), but the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) failed to provide her with any appropriate care.

Loss (New York)

Mariah L. v. Administration for Children’s Services
Mariah L. is a 20 year old male-to-female transgender youth who is a foster child in the custody of the New York Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which has a duty to provide and pay for all necessary medical care and treatment for children placed in NYC foster care. Although all of Mariah’s medical providers agreed that surgery is medically necessary for her particular needs, ACS refused to provide it.

Victory! (California)

Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group
Guadalupe "Lupita" Benitez was denied infertility treatment by her Southern California healthcare providers because she is a lesbian. The trial court rejected the doctors’ claim that they do not have to follow California’s anti-discrimination law because they have religious objections to serving lesbian patients.

publications & downloads

AB 2356: Equal Access to Fertility Medical Care FAQs for Providers
This bill allows providers to offer people seeking to conceive using a known sperm donor access to certain fertility services on the same terms as different-sex couples.
download pdf

AB 2356: Equal Access to Fertility Medical Care FAQs for Prospective Parents
This bill allows providers to offer people seeking to conceive using a known sperm donor access to certain fertility services on the same terms as different-sex couples.

download pdf

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding New Federal Rules on Who Can Make Medical Decisions for You (pdf)

In September 2011, the federal government issued new rules that strengthen patients’ rights to choose who can make medical decisions for them if they are unable to speak or make decisions on their own behalf.

Health Clinics Specializing in the Treatment of LGBT Patients (pdf)

The enclosed document lists various clinics, health centers, and other healthcare resources that specialize in the treatment and wellness of the LGBT community including LGBT youth.

More Information About Transgender Healthcare (pdf)

A list of organizations that provide resources, health education, and healthcare with a specific focus on the transgender community.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Federal Hospital Visitation Rules (pdf)

On April 15, 2010, President Barack Obama issued a memo directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt new regulations that would require nearly all hospitals to grant equal visitation rights to all families, not just those based on marriage or biological ties. In the memo, President Obama specifically talked about same-sex couples as an example of families that have been unfairly kept apart when one partner is hospitalized.

Lifelines: Documents to protect you and your family (pdf)

This publication contains information about essential documents that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of illness, disability, or death, including creating documents to protect your personal choices about medical care and the persons who can visit you in the hospital.


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