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The nature of reproductive rights has always been about much more than a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions. It encompasses the much broader right of individuals to live their private lives free from intrusion or judgement by government and politicians of all stripes. As the attacks on Planned Parenthood continue to escalate in response to anti­abortion propaganda, right­wing backlash to marriage equality also has LGBT communities in many states playing defense. This means that now, it’s more important than ever before that pro­choice and pro­LGBT equality coalitions work together to push back on the assaults of our shared values.

The same right­wing agendas hostile to women’s choice are also trying to turn back the progress of LGBT rights. They seek to control sexuality, gender conformity, reproductive choice and legal definitions of family….and they’ve been doing this for decades, bringing our movements even closer together.

More and more often, opponents of equality are hiding behind new religious exemption laws to discriminate against LGBT people. We can thank Hobby Lobby for that one. The famous SCOTUS ruling on their case said religious owners could not be forced to pay insurance coverage for contraception, which opened the floodgates and gave conservatives a model to begin using religious exemptions to circumvent civil rights laws and even enshrine discrimination into statute. Indiana­style legislation giving businesses the right to refuse service on religious or moral grounds has already been filed in Florida for 2016 session.

But even as we fight together against these attacks from our common enemies, we also have the opportunity to be proactive in our advocacy for good policy that impacts our core mission. Unfortunately, this year Florida became the state with the highest number of new HIV transmissions in the nation. Although there are many reasons for why Florida has this problem, one of the reasons is the absence of age appropriate; comprehensive and LGBT­inclusive sex­ed in a majority of our public schools. Abstinence­only sex education has proved not only to be ineffective in reducing the number of teen pregnancies, but also increases the spread of HIV and Sexual Transmitted Diseases’, especially amongst LGBT youth. That’s why Equality Florida (Florida’s largest LGBT civil rights group) and Planned Parenthood support HB 859 (Fulwood) and SB 1056 (Bullard) which finally implements age appropriate, comprehensive and LGBT­inclusive sex­ed in Florida’s public schools.

These policy intersections, mutual enemies, and shared missions in many ways demonstrate how attacks on either one of our struggles are intrinsically linked, and our goals forever interconnected. That’s why Equality Florida has been a pro­choice organization since its founding in 1997, and will continue stand with Planned Parenthood in actively defending reproductive rights.

Carlos is the government affairs manager for Equality Florida Institute. 

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