We’re poised to fight back against efforts to control our bodies and limit access to essential health care.

Across the country, our bodies have become political battlegrounds. Politicians are passing extreme bans on abortion, restricting access to birth control and medication abortion, and keeping transgender people from accessing the care that they need.

It’s happening here in North Dakota, too. 

This past year has been devastating for our right and ability to make personal decisions about our own bodies and medical care. We saw the end of the protections from Roe v. Wade, the consequences of North Dakota’s total ban on abortion without adequate exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the pregnant person, and now a ban on gender-affirming medical care for youth. 

We know that these attacks won’t stop with abortion and gender-affirming care. All of our rights, to make decisions about our bodies, families, and health, are at stake right now.

But liberty grants us the ability to determine our own paths in life and shape our futures. Medical decisions, who we love, and how we show up in the world should be up to us. Our ability to determine our present and future lives, after all, is fundamental to achieving the liberty guaranteed to everyone in the U.S. Constitution.

There is no liberty, however, without self-determination.

One of the most sacred freedoms of self-determination is our right to our own bodies, or bodily autonomy. Both abortion and gender-affirming care are bodily autonomy issues. These issues are interconnected not only because they’re both hot-button issues in the media, but also because the movement to attack transgender rights is driven by many of the same actors who worked to eliminate abortion rights in the United States. This effort has been underway for decades and relies on secrecy and conspiracy. They are using similar tactics and the two movements have a common goal: Control over our bodies.

The fight for abortion access and access to gender affirming care is linked by a simple belief — you are the rightful author of your own life story. Both abortion and gender-affirming care give us the freedom to determine our own paths in life and to defy barriers that oppress and erase women and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people. North Dakota elected officials who want to strip us of that freedom want to write your story for you, deciding who you are, what you do with your body, and when – or if – you start a family. 

North Dakota’s ban on gender-affirming care and the total ban on abortion are interrelated and aim to remove privacy, choice, and representation for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people and abortion seekers, but the implications affect everyone’s civil liberties and civil rights. 

Any governmental intrusion into our right to bodily autonomy, inclusive of reproductive rights and the right to live as the gender you identify as, robs us of the agency we need to meaningfully drive our own narratives.

The ACLU of North Dakota will never stop fighting for the freedom of all people to fully control their bodies, lives, and futures. 

A version of this column also appeared in The Forum