Defining Reproductive Justice

reproductivejustice-1.jpgReproductive justice is an analytical framework or theory, a movement, and a practice that works to protect and guarantee women's rights and the full achievement of human rights. The term “reproductive justice” was claimed and coined by women of color as a result of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development hosted in Cairo. It integrates reproductive health with social justice and human rights. The term reproductive justice represents a holistic view that acknowledges diverse factors that intersect in multiple ways to affect women and their reproductive rights.

The reproductive justice analysis understands that women, and particularly women of color and their communities, experience reproductive oppression. Reproductive oppression is "the controlling and exploiting of women, girls, and individuals through our bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction (both biological and social) by families, communities, institutions and society" (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, 2005 and Loretta J. Ross, SisterSong, 2006). Reproductive justice, on the other hand, emphasizes that a woman's reproductive health is not only based on individual choice but also a variety of factors and conditions within one's experiences, family, and community. It cannot be separated or put into a hierarchy of oppressions. Just as a person's reproductive health experiences cannot be separated from mental, social, economic, familiar, communal, or environmental well-being. This inter-sectional paradigm addresses that systems of oppression simultaneously discriminate based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, age, immigration status, linguistic abilities, and other factors. These intersecting forms of oppression and discrimination have historically resulted in power, privilege, and resources for a select few and limited access to power and resources to a large majority, including women, women of color, women in poverty, and other groups. This analysis highlights systems of oppression as both a result and tool of “the regulation of reproduction and exploitation of women’s bodies and labor” (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, 2005).

Glossary of Key Terms:

Reproductive Health [focus - service delivery]: Reproductive health addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system at all stages of life. Reproductive health, therefore, implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. (World Health Organization)

Reproductive Rights [focus - legal issues]: Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence. (World Health Organization)

Reproductive Justice [focus - movement building]: The complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls that will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction for themselves, their families, and their communities. (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice)

Reproductive Oppression: The controlling and exploiting of women, girls, and individuals through their bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction (both biological and social) by families, communities, institutions, and society. (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice & SisterSong)

Reproductive Control: Interference with a woman's reproductive autonomy, including pregnancy-promoting behaviors as well as control and abuse during pregnancy in an attempt to influence the pregnancy outcome. Reproductive control can be exerted upon women from various sources including their partners, parents, peers, and the medical establishment. (Ann M. Moore, Lori Frohwirth, & Elizabeth Miller)

NOTE: "Reproductive control" may also reference a woman's ability to have full autonomy regarding her reproductive health.

Human Rights: Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. (United Nations)