Reproductive justice: Wikis


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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, human rights violations, race, sexuality, and nationality.[1] 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.[2] 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."[3]

According to SisterSong, reproductive justice has five primary characteristics:[4]

  • Defines the primary problem as Reproductive Oppression
  • Uses an intersectional analysis
  • Is based on worldview focused on human rights
  • Links individuals to their communities
  • Uses organizing and advocacy to work on institutional change

Reproductive justice will be achieved when Indigenous women and women of color have the power to[5]: 1. protect and advance our human rights; 2. determine the number and spacing of our children; 3. protect our bodily integrity; 4. protect our right to parent our children; 5. improve the quality of the environment in which we live, 6. obtain the necessary social supports to live healthy lives in healthy families, and in safe and sustainable communities.

Reproductive justice has emerged as new critical reproductive theory linking it to critical race theory proponents that highlight intersectionality of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, immigration status, and age as critical factors that must be incorporated to address the complex web of reproductive oppression faced by communities of color.[6]

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.[7] The reproductive health framework emphasizes access to health services, addressing inequalities in health by providing services to historically under-served communities[8] The reproductive rights framework emphasizes the protection of an individual woman's legal right to reproductive health services, focusing on increasing access to contraception and keeping abortion legal.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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,[12] 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. [13] These conditions include such factors as access to reliable transportation, health services, education, childcare, and access to positions of power;[13] adequate housing and income; elimination of health hazardous environments;[14] and freedom from violence and discrimination.[15]

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.[16] Thus, reproductive justice activists believe that it is equally important to fight for 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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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."[21]

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.[22] 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,[22] Several other reproductive rights and women's organizations, such as Planned Parenthood[23] and the National Organization for Women,[24] have since adopted usage of the term.

Issues of Reproductive Justice

Sexuality Education

The curricula for sexual education varies greatly by school and region. There are many different types of sexual education programs, but the most common grouping of such programs is the comprehensive approach (also termed abstinence plus) and the abstinence only approach (until marriage). The abstinence only approach teaches adolescents to abstain from all sexual activity until marriage. This program provides a minimal amount of information concerning contraception methods, but does provide information on STD’s/STI’s and HIV/AIDS. Advocates for reproductive justice believe in providing a comprehensive sexual education in schools. This curriculum includes teaching adolescents about contraception, STD and HIV prevention, discussions about abortion, and acknowledgement that many teens will become sexually active. However, the proposed policy also encourages teens to abstain from sex and aims to further compliments the cultural and familial values of the community. Although both policies aims are the same: preventing pregnancy and reducing STD’s/STI’s and HIV/AIDs, the methods and subject matter for reaching this end are still a hot topic of contention in schools([25]).

Birth Control and Emergency Contraception

The controversy surrounding birth control has been around as early as the 1900’s. Margaret Sanger wrote in 1920 that “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” (Feminist theory p 139, 4). She later established the first birth control clinic in America, and was founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood. (feminist theory,4). The movement for reproductive justice believes that women should have more access to and knowledge about birth control. Many health care plans do not offer coverage for contraception methods, especially the more expensive procedures and devices including IUD (intrauterine device), and the Nuva Ring. These methods are more expensive but last longer and are more effective than most other methods for preventing pregnancy. Contraception methods are often expensive, and so many women are not able to afford them without health care insurance coverage. This brings into light the intersection between gender and class. Many lower income women cannot afford birth control [26]

Reproductive justice fights for making birth control more affordable for all women and petitions insurance companies to cover the costs of women’s reproductive health. N.O.W. (The National Organization for Women which is a feminist organization and a staunch advocate for reproductive justice) has recently petitioned congress to reinstate the low-cost contraception distribution by campus and community health centers. As a result, The Omnibus Appropriations Act was passed by Congress for fiscal year 2009, and provides for low-cost contraception to be distributed to these centers nationwide [27]. These health centers that provide health services for women at a low-cost are an important part of the reproductive justice movement, and their goal to make reproductive health and contraception more readily available for all women.

Reproductive Justice advocates also desire increased awareness of methods of contraception including IUD’s, the Nuva Ring, the birth control pill, shots, condoms, and forms of emergency contraception (like Plan B). By providing women with knowledge about and access to contraception, the reproductive justice movement hopes to lower unwanted pregnancies and help women take control over their bodies.

The Title X Family Planning program, is a federally funded grant, and was enacted in the 1970’s to provide individuals with reproductive health services. This grant gives funding for clinics to provide health services such as breast and pelvic examinations, STD and cancer tests, HIV coundseling, testing, and education, and other reproductive health services. These clinics are vital to low-income and uninsured individuals. Advocates for Reproductive justice also aim to increase funding for these programs and increase the number of services that are funded [28].


Although abortions were made legal in the Roe V. Wade supreme court decision of 1973, the backlash against this procedure has been vehement. Many “pro-life” advocates try to discourage abortions because they claim it to be infanticide. As a result of this backlash almost no insurance plans provide coverage for abortions. It is estimated that almost 74% of women pay an average of $468 out of pocket for the procedure. (Hessini, Hays,Turner,& Packer,2009). Furthermore, the number of clinics and doctors that provide safe abortions are minimal and lack funds and support. Women also receive a lot of societal stigma if they choose to have an abortion, and are often too embarrassed to discuss this topic. Title X does not provide funding to programs which provide abortions as a means for family planning [29].

Advocates for reproductive justice believe that all women should be able to obtain safe and afordable abortions if they desire one. Organizations like NOW and Planned Parenthood aim to provide increased access to safe abortions at a low-cost and without external stigma and pressure. Fighters for reproductive justice aim to increase insurance coverage for abortions, decrease the stigma/danger attached to receiving an abortion, eliminate parental notification for teens, train more physicians and clinics to provide safe abortions, and create awareness about abortion, while clearing up common misconceptions. ( Many also work to fight the dichotomy of the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and work to expand the definitions of these debates. [30]

Reproductive justice additionally addresses the disparity in how African Americans, Latinas, and other minority groups are affected by the under-availability of safe, affordable abortion services. Many more minority groups experience poverty and higher rates of pregnancy (due to the lack of available contraception). This makes obtaining an abortion difficult because they cannot afford these services. Organizations like Sister Song work to fight issues that are at the root of the problem, related to social rights, economic rights, racial discrimination, etc. They fight these most basic forms of oppression in order to combat the interlocking systems of discrimination that affect whether a woman will seek out and afford an abortion as an alternative to an unwanted pregnancy ([31]).

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.[17][32][33]


  1. ^ Silliman et al. 2004, p.4.
  2. ^ Ross 2006, p.2.
  3. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.1.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.1.
  8. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.2.
  9. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.2.
  10. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.2.
  11. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.3.
  12. ^ Smith 2005, p.127-128
  13. ^ a b Correa and Petchesky, p.92
  14. ^ Petchesky 1984, p.396.
  15. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.5.
  16. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.4.
  17. ^ a b Ross, "What is Reproductive Justice?," p.4.
  18. ^ Ross 2006, p.5.
  19. ^ Silliman et al. 2004, p.1.
  20. ^ Ross 2006, p.1.
  21. ^ a b Ross 2006, p.6.
  22. ^ a b Ross 2006, p.7.
  23. ^ Ross 2006, p.11.
  24. ^ Mendez 2006.
  25. ^ Collins, Alagiri, & Summers, 2002
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008
  29. ^ U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2008
  30. ^ Smith,2005
  31. ^ Smith, 2005
  32. ^ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice 2005, p.7.
  33. ^ Silliman et al. 2004, p.40


Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice. Retrieved on April 15, 2008.

  • Collins, C. Alagiri, P.,& Summers. T. (2002). Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education: What Are the Arguments?

What is the Evidence? San Francisco: AIDS Policy Research Center & Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California

  • Correa, Sonia and Rosalind Petchesky. “Reproductive and Sexual Rights: A Feminist Perspective.” Feminist Theory Reader. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 88-102. ISBN 0-415-93153-3.
  • Hessini, L., Hays, L., Turner, E. & Packer, S. Abortion Matters to Reproductive Justice. Retrieved November 4, 2009, from the Pro-Choice Public Education Project website:
  • Join NOW in Taking Action for Reproductive Justice. Retrieved November 3,2009, from the National Organization for Women web site:
  • Mendez, Zenaida (2006). Reproductive Justice is Every Woman's Right. NOW. Retrieved on April 15, 2008.
  • Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack. Abortion and Women’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom. 2nd ed. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1984. ISBN 0582282152.
  • Ross, Loretta (May 2006). Understanding Reproductive Justice. SisterSong. Retrieved on April 16, 2008.
  • Ross, Loretta. "What is Reproductive Justice?" Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. SisterSong. Retrieved on April 16, 2008.
  • Sanger, M. (1920). Birth Control- A Parents’ Problem or Woman’s? From Woman and the New Race. In W. Kolmar, & F. Bartkowksi (Eds), Feminist Theory (138-139). New York: McGraw-Hill
  • Silliman, Jael, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutierrez. Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice. Cambridge: South End Press, 2004. ISBN 0-89608-729-8.
  • SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. SisterSong. Retrieved on April 16, 2008.
  • Smith, Andrea. “Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice.” NWSA Journal no 17 (Spring 2005): 119-140.
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.(2008). Title X Family Planning Program. Retrieved from

See also

External links



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