An interview with reproductive justice organizer Mason Hickman
On April 9, the Ohio state legislature passed the “Heartbeat Bill,” a six-week abortion ban. Mason Hickman wants Ohioans to know that queer and transgender people, like him, are fighting back.
Hickman is the campaign manager for nonprofit organization URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity) and a volunteer for Planned Parenthood. For the past two years, he has spent his time reaching out to people “who are affected by anti-abortion laws.”
“What that looks like is canvasing, showing up at their doors, having them come out to events [and] teaching them how to talk to legislators,” Hickman said. It also means taking them to Sen. Rob Portman's office, attending protests, phone banking and fundraising for reproductive organizations, he added.
For Hickman, reproductive health and bodily autonomy are personal causes. “This issue is important to me as a queer and trans person because I am someone who is able to get pregnant [and] because I am someone who may need to access abortion services someday,” he said. “Not all cis women can get pregnant, so it's not just a women's issue.”
Transgender women and femmes have long been targets of forced sterilization, Hickman said. He'd also like to see the medical needs of transgender men and non-binary people taken seriously.
Using language that reflects this reality isn't difficult. Instead of talking about “women's access to abortion,” say “access to abortion.” Instead of using phrases like “women who might become pregnant,” substitute “anyone who might become pregnant.”
Talking about the specific reproductive health needs of queer and transgender people is also necessary. “If there's no visibility for us, there will be no laws to protect us,” Hickman said. “Things like the six-week ban make timing crucial, and when time is of the essence, you need to have financial resources [and] family resources in order to access abortion. As we know, LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color, don't always have those immediate resources at their disposal. So this hurts us even more than most people.”
Hickman urges Ohioans concerned about reproductive health and abortion access to contact their elected officials, volunteer with local organizations and donate to abortion funds. He also believes it's time to acknowledge and welcome queer and transgender people in the reproductive justice struggle. “Queer and trans people have been showing up for the longest time and we have been consistently shut out,” he said. “We are at a point where you can't afford to shut us out anymore. We want to fight alongside you, but we can't do that if you pretend we don't exist. ... People have been policing our bodies since the beginning of time. We've learned to fight back."