Over the past 50 years women have found their voices and created outlets to speak freely about issues relevant to their bodies and their right to choice. Some organizations, such as Trust Black Women, the LUZ Reproductive Think Tank, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW and the Groundswell Fund, have gone as far as insisting that reproductive rights are human rights, thus, women’s bodies should be protected and cared for by law regardless of race, gender or class. The cross-breeding of the two concepts has given birth to an intersectional theory, Reproductive Justice. It sheds new and necessary light on the underlying issues which control the reproductive choices of women of color. Coined by SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in 1994, the term Reproductive Justice or RJ, is described by the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice as
…a positive approach that links sexuality, health, and human rights to social justice movements. By placing abortion and reproductive health issues in the larger context of the well-being and health of women, families and communities, reproductive justice seamlessly integrates those individual and group human rights particularly important to marginalized communities.
Women of color and poor people throughout the world have frequently been stigmatized for having children. As an extension of the eugenics movement, these marginalized communities continue to face forced sterilization. Through the term Reproductive Justice, the human rights umbrella expands to encompass issues involving women of color and their ability to have power over health issues that are specific to their gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic statuses. Reproductive Justice understands the connection between these issues and how understanding them is key to the true liberation of the female body.
As intuitive as it might seem for women to have absolute power over when, how or whether she gives birth, for some it is not such an easy equation. Currently, the United States is locked in a heated debate regarding the female body. Despite the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, states like Texas and Virgina have imposed a mandatory and invasive transvaginal ultrasound for woman seeking abortions. Planned Parenthood is threatened with loss of funding. As recently as two years ago, billboards went up in two major cities targeting African Americans and their choice. As activist and allies it is in imperative to take a stance against policies that hinder women’s choice and use race and ethnicity as tactics of reproductive oppression. This Women’s History Month, we encourage you to take action and get involved with an organization which promotes Reproductive Justice. SisterSong strives to educate women about their reproductive rights so they can speak on and against injustices done to their bodies and their Reproductive Justice training courses teach women and activists how to approach women’s rights using this framework. Similarly, SPARK organizes days of action on a regular basis. Use this month to reclaim your body and to let others know that it’s your uterus and thus, your rights.
by Courtney Cook, a Nonprofit Management degree candidate at the New School for Public Engagement