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Reproductive Justice & Violence Against Women: Understanding the Intersections

February 28, 2017
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Reproductive justice is a framework and movement that links reproductive health and rights with social justice. The term was claimed and coined by women of color as a result of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development hosted in Cairo, and the reproductive justice movement 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. While many women see abortion rights as their main issue – and it is indeed important – many women, and in particular women of color and low income women, often have difficulty accessing contraception, comprehensive sex education, sexually transmitted infection prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support families, safe homes, and so much more. Even the right to parent is often threatened. Reproductive justice addresses all of these critical issues (Loretta J. Ross, SisterSong, 2006).

The reproductive justice analysis also 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). This reproductive oppression cannot be separated out from the other oppressions individuals and communities experience, just as a person's reproductive health experiences cannot be separated from mental, social, economic, familial, communal, or environmental well-being (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, 2005 and Loretta J. Ross, SisterSong, 2006).

This intersectional paradigm at the core of reproductive justice acknowledges that systems of oppression simultaneously discriminate based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, age, immigration status, language, 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 for a large majority, including women of color, women in poverty, women as an overall group, and others. Reproductive justice aims to bring about the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of not only women’s reproductive rights, but their human rights.

This collection includes select resources that detail the history of the reproductive justice movement, provide comprehensive information on reproductive justice and social change, and lift up the work of organizations that are advancing a reproductive justice agenda. Also included are resources on the intersection of domestic and sexual violence and reproductive justice, and information on federal and state policies surrounding the issue.

This is an update to a collection that was originally developed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, and the Women of Color Network. We would like to thank SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, especially Loretta Ross, and the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice for their years of dedication to and development of reproductive justice as a framework and movement and for all of their resources that are part of this collection.