Reproductive justice

Reproductive justice is a concept linking reproductive health with social justice. The term emerged from the work of reproductive health organizations for women of color in the United States in the 1990s.


Proponents of the concept of reproductive justice aim to recognize that women's reproductive health is connected to and affected by conditions in their lives that are shaped by their socioeconomic status, race, sexuality, and nationality. Proponents argue that women cannot have full control over their reproductive lives, unless issues such as socioeconomic disadvantage, racial discrimination, inequalities in wealth and power, and differential access to resources and services are addressed.The grassroots organization Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice defines reproductive justice as follows: "We believe reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives."

Advocates for reproductive justice have identified three main frameworks for advocating for women's sexual and reproductive needs: reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice. The reproductive health framework emphasizes access to health services, addressing inequalities in health by providing services to historically under-served communities The reproductive rights framework emphasizes the protection of an indvidual woman's legal right to reproductive health services, focusing on increasing access to contraception and keeping abortion legal. The reproductive justice framework utilizes an intersectional analysis of women's experiences and focuses on changing the structural inequalities that affect women's reproductive health and their ability to control their reproductive lives.

For reproductive justice activists, the primary difference between the reproductive rights and health frameworks and the reproductive justice framework is that the rights and health frameworks focus on protecting individual rights and choices, while the reproductive justice framework focuses on broader socioeconomic conditions and bringing about structural change. The emphasis on individual choice in the health and rights frameworks is considered problematic because it obscures the social context in which reproductive choices are made, ignoring the fact that many women do not have access to services or resources, such as quality health care services or health insurance. This lack of access limits the options available to these women. Therefore, advocates of reproductive justice argue that certain enabling conditions are necessary for women to make reproductive decisions free of constraint or coercion. These conditions include such factors as access to reliable transportation, health services, education, childcare, and access to positions of power; adequate housing and income; elimination of health hazardous environments; and freedom from violence and discrimination.

Reproductive justice activists have also criticized the choice paradigm because the focus on abortion rights in the pro-choice movement does not take into account the experiences of many women of color in the US. The struggle for women of color has often been a fight for the right to have children, as many Native American, Black and Puerto Rican women have been targeted for forced sterilization. Thus, reproductive justice activists believe that it is equally important to fight for the the right to have a child, the right not to have a child, the right to parent the children that one already has, and the right to control one's birthing options.

Origin and history of the term

Roots of the reproductive justice framework can be traced to the 1970s, when women of color organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women criticized the term "choice" in the mainstream reproductive rights movement. The 1980s and 1990s saw the creation of many new reproductive health organizations for women of color, such as the National Black Women's Health Project. The term "reproductive justice" was coined in 1994 by the Black Women's Caucus at a national pro-choice conference sponsored by the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance in Chicago. The conference took place two months after the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. The caucus was formed as an attempt to move away from the "choice" framework and adapt the Cairo Programme of Action in the context of the United States. Utilizing the human rights framework of the Cairo Programme of Action, the caucus created the term "reproductive justice," which was originally defined as "reproductive health integrated into social justice."

In 1997, several members of the caucus became co-founders of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, which utilized a human rights framework as the basis for its organizing. After organizing a national conference in 2003 that explored the issue of reproductive justice, SisterSong adopted the reproductive justice framework as its principal framework. In 2004, SisterSong member group Asian and Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health adopted reproductive justice as its central framework and renamed itself Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, Several other reproductive rights and women's organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, have since adopted usage of the term.

Issues related to reproductive justice

Because of the broad scope of the reproductive justice framework, reproductive justice activists are involved in organizing for a wide array of causes. These causes include movements for immigrant rights, labor rights, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, economic justice, and environmental justice. Other causes include organizing for comprehensive sex education, safe and affordable contraceptives, repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and ending violence against women and human trafficking.


See also

External links

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