What is reproductive justice?
Reproductive justice is widely defined as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent children in safe and sustainable communities.1
A reproductive justice framework analyzes the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that individuals have to control their reproductive destiny. 2
How did the term reproductive justice arise?
In 1994, a group of black women, then known as the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, coined this term acknowledging the limitations of the word “choice” in the women’s rights and reproductive rights frameworks.3 Recognizing that the reproductive rights movement could not address the needs of marginalized communities, these women launched the organization SisterSong and catalyzed a movement.2
This movement lies at the intersection of reproductive rights and social justice, where structural oppression impacts the ability of marginalized communities, such as communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community, to access reproductive healthcare services, to self-determine family creation, and to parent with dignity.
How is reproductive justice different from reproductive rights?
Reproductive justice is not synonymous with “pro-choice” or “reproductive rights.” Reproductive rights center around everyone’s individual and legal right to reproductive healthcare services. Reproductive justice connects the framework of reproductive rights with the political, economic, and social inequalities that affect a person’s ability to access reproductive healthcare.
Reproductive justice is about dismantling barriers to accessing healthcare, whereas reproductive rights is about securing legal rights.
Reproductive justice acknowledges that a person cannot freely make reproductive health decisions when their choices are limited by lack of access or oppressive circumstances. Simply put: a right is not a right if you cannot access it.
Reproductive justice looks beyond abortion access to include expanding access to birth control, comprehensive and inclusive sexual education, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate working wages, safe communities and homes, and much more.2