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Reproductive Justice

We believe Reproductive Justice, or RJ, exists when all individuals have the power, access and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality, relationships and families for themselves and their community.

Loretta Ross

The term reproductive justice was coined by Loretta Ross, the founder of the organization SisterSong in Chicago in 1994. The reproductive justice movement came out of an acknowledgement that women of color are often hurt most by attacks on our rights and communities and that our voices and experiences have often been left out of mainstream reproductive rights initiatives.[1]

(Photo: COLORistxs Kassandra Rendon-Morales, Nina Zamarippa with Loretta Ross, 2017)

 

Reproductive Justice is different from reproductive health, rights or choice. Here is a breakdown of the different terms and their meaning:

Reproductive Health (RH):

A continuum of physical, mental and social-emotional care pertaining to the reproductive system at all stages of life (e.g., information, screenings, treatment and care on STDs/STIs and HIV/AIDS, contraception, abortion). RH addresses a person’s ability to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. It also focuses on the creation, monitoring and availability of different methods and services that someone might utilize to manage their health and fertility. RH groups are often involved in work around FDA approval and regulations, as well as traditional advocacy on abortion and contraception.

Reproductive Rights (RR):

Reproductive rights work is about the legal protections that exist and that we pursue through legislation and litigation in order to protect the right to access reproductive health care services. RR work has been largely focused on abortion and contraception. Reproductive rights is often narrowly focused on (1) approving a person’s ability to decide to terminate a pregnancy, and (2) ensuring they have the legal protections to act on that decision.

Pro-Choice:

The term pro-choice has been used as a label for the work of reproductive rights organizations and the right to seek an abortion. It generally refers to political advocacy on behalf of access to abortion. It is often used as the opposite of “pro-life”. The media also utilizes “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion” to label what is presented as two sides of an issue. In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion about both the limits of using labels, as well as the fact that the label “pro-choice” does not fully reflect the mission and work of the reproductive justice movement which incorporates a more diverse range of issues, voices and viewpoints.

 

COLOR fights for reproductive health, rights and justice!

Reproductive Justice (RJ):

Reproductive justice is meant to be more than a label. It is a three-tenet framework that provides a different approach to doing the work. Reproductive justice affirms that person has the right and should have the ability: (1) to decide when to become a parent, (2) to decide to not become a parent and (3) to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment. From a messaging and organizing standpoint, reproductive justice incorporates a broad range of issues and is meant to emphasize the intersections between different movements and communities to cultivate greater understanding and create a stronger movement.

When the term “reproductive justice” emerged in 1994, the movement for reproductive freedom was dominated by the voices of white, cisgender, resourced women who had a singular focus on abortion. Many women of color, and black women in particular, felt excluded from the movement and wanted to see it include an analysis of the multiple oppressions marginalized communities face. Economic, sexual, racial, disability, immigration, and religious factors keep many people from being able to make genuine choices about their reproductive lives. Recognizing the need for a more intersectional approach to addressing barriers to reproductive health, women of color activists launched a movement for “reproductive justice” rooted in human rights values, cognizant of all our identities and circumstances, and addressing a range of issues. Going beyond abortion, reproductive justice recognizes the right to have a child, the right not to have a child, the right to parent the children we have with dignity, the right to control our birthing options, the right to choose our sexual partners, and the right to control our own gender.

(Photo: COLORistxs Karla Gonzales Garcia, Jolene Cardenas, & Kassandra Rendon-Morales with SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Executive Director Monica Simpson, 2017)