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Resource for Journalists

Reporting on Reproductive Health Care & Transgender People

Transgender people have abortions, continue pregnancies, use birth control, choose to be parents or choose to not have children, just like any people do. But transgender people are often excluded from conversations about reproductive health care, and face stigma when seeking health care. Sometimes, providers even refuse to provide care to transgender people because of bias, and a lack of comprehensive nondiscrimination protections means that patients in many areas have no options for recourse.This has direct implications for public health–when health care providers use the wrong name or pronouns for a patient, or when transgender people feel like they don’t have inclusive and compassionate health care options, they are more likely to delay or avoid needed health care, or be misdiagnosed or not properly treated when they do seek care. 

Media coverage of reproductive health care that is accurate and inclusive of transgender people can help reduce this stigma. The following resource, compiled by Mabel Wadsworth Center health care experts, offers medically accurate, easy-to-understand guidance for reporting on reproductive health care in ways that are inclusive of transgender people. 

Best Practices

Refer to ‘people’ not only ‘women’

The right to decide if, when, or how to have children is a human right, not just a woman’s right. Not every story about abortion or parenting needs to focus on LGBTQ people exclusively, but every story should use gender-inclusive language that acknowledges that a diverse range of people seek reproductive health care. Using gender-neutral language like “people” and “parent” is the most accurate way to represent the reality that all kinds of people access reproductive health care. In addition, only using the word “women” can actually perpetuate the idea that cisgender women’s reproductive abilities are the most important part of their value and identity, and dismisses the experiences of cisgender or transgender women who cannot, or choose not to, become parents.

Use people’s correct pronouns

Transgender people may use he, she, they or other words as pronouns. Just as you would never misquote a source, it’s important not to misrepresent any person by using the wrong name or pronoun to refer to them. It’s common to use a singular they–the Associated Press Stylebook now recognizes that they/them can be used as a singular pronoun–and you can always use a person’s name again to help clarify. Refer to transgender people with the names they use, and do not ask for or print a name that they may have formerly been called, even if it is still their legal name.

Don’t make assumptions about transgender people’s reproductive choices

A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation doesn’t have anything to do with what body parts a person has or whether they can or want to get pregnant. Anyone who can get pregnant needs access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care and prenatal and postpartum resources so that they can make their own choices about if, when or how to become parents. Transgender people make decisions to have children or to have abortions based on many personal factors, just like everyone else, not only based on the fact that they are transgender.

Quote representative sources

When identifying spokespeople, it’s important to consider who can speak to the topic at hand from lived experience or direct expertise. Stories about transgender people accessing reproductive health care should center the voices of impacted transgender people, rather than quoting speculation or opinions about transgender people from politicians or others. And when identifying an expert source, it’s important to consider the perspective of health care professionals who have experience working with transgender patients.

Key Terms

Accurate reporting should use fact-based, medically accurate language to describe reproductive health care services and the people who access them, and should not perpetuate stigma, misconceptions or politically-motivated anti-transgender rhetoric.

 

Instead of saying… Try saying…
Pregnant women Pregnant people
Women’s rights or women’s health care Reproductive rights or reproductive health care
Prenatal support for mothers Prenatal support for parents
“She” when referring to a hypothetical patient (e.g.: when a patient visits the clinic, she first completes her paperwork….) “They” when referring to a hypothetical patient (e.g.: when a patient visits the clinic, they first complete their paperwork….)
Women and transgender people People
Transgender or nonbinary people Transgender people, including nonbinary people