Reproductive Justice

What is Reproductive Justice?

According to Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, Reproductive Justice exists when all people have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Reproductive justice examines the intersection of experiences for women of color whose communities endure reproductive oppression. According to SisterSong, we must examine the integrative and cumulative effects of oppression against women on all levels: economic, racial, orientation, gender, age, etc. This 'intersectional theory' of Reproductive Justice is described "as the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, environmental, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women's human rights."

Beyond Choice: Understanding Women's Rights Through a Global Lens

Domestically, women of color urged the pro-choice movement to be more responsive to the needs and perspectives of women of color. Beginning in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade decision, women of color (e.g., the National Council of Negro Women) problematized the term “choice” popularized by the mainstream women’s movement based on the Supreme Court decision. The term "Choice" has masked the ways that laws, policies and public officials punish or reward the reproductive activity of different groups of women differently.

Every domestic attack on women’s rights has its global counterpart and vice versa. SisterSong believes that connecting our domestic issues to the global reproductive health and sexual rights movement will strengthen our domestic movement, help move the debate from the paralyzing pro- and anti-choice stalemate, and bring new voices into the reproductive justice movement. While this one strategy is not a panacea for addressing all of the unresolved issues we face in the United States, it is a powerful platform for seeing beyond the self-absorption of a movement that reinforces – not deconstructs – American exceptionalism and rights-based individualism.

The reproductive justice movement must be part of the effort towards building a human rights culture in the United States. Human rights must be infused into the complex and multiple cultures in the United States – into our beliefs, outlooks and motivations. It offers a compelling counter to the “culture of life” rhetoric of the fundamentalists and Christian Reconstructionists that is a throwback to the days when people had to be religiously qualified white males, back to a paternalistic and authoritarian democracy. Human rights offer a vision of how to achieve equality to counter the traditions of inequality.

Many new resources and groups are analyzing reproductive rights through a global human rights lens:

  • Solinger, Rickie. Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America.

  • SisterLove, Inc. is the first and oldest community based non-profit in Georgia to focus specifically upon the needs of women, particularly African American women and those of African descent, who are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

  • Avery Institute for Social Change - founded by Byllye Avery

  • As of 2008, cervical cancer impacts a disproportionately high number of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women. Vietnamese-American women in particular are five times more likely to have cervical cancer than white women.

Human Rights for ALL

Women's reproductive rights under international human rights law are a composite of a number of separate human rights:

  • the right to health, reproductive health, and family planning
  • the right to decide the number and spacing of children
  • the right to marry and to found a family
  • the right to life, liberty, and security
  • the right to be free from gender discrimination
  • the right to be free from sexual assault and exploitation
  • the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
  • the right to modify customs that discriminate against women
  • the right to privacy
  • the right to enjoy scientific progress and to consent to experimentation

International Resources and Information

  • Center for Reproductive Rights - working in the USA and throughout the world to expand women's rights.

  • Focus on the Family Worldwide - authorize increased funding to family planning programs implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This bill will increase authorized funding for USAID's voluntary family planning programs to $600 million in FY 2008, and then by an additional $100 million annually, over the next four years, reaching $1 billion in FY 2012.

  • Women Won't Wait is an international coalition of women's groups working to end HIV and violence against women.

  • Prevention Now is a global campaign to prevent the spread of HIV, reduce unintended pregnancy, and advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people worldwide.

  • PATHWAY Act The Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007 would require the President and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) to establish a comprehensive and integrated HIV prevention strategy to address the vulnerabilities of women and girls to HIV infection and would strike the earmark requiring that one-third of all prevention funding be dedicated to abstinence-until-marriage programs.

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Multiple Issues addressed by Reproductive Justice Framework include:

  1. the right to have a child (including the right to give birth in the manner we decide)
  2. the right not to have a child (including access to and coverage for reproductive health care including abortion and birth control)
  3. the right to parent the children we have in dignity (including options for child care, keeping families together)

Prevent Sterilization Abuse: Women who are poor or non-white, who do not speak English, or who have some form of disability or hereditary disease may feel pressured by society or their families to be sterilized.

Prevent Maternal Health Disparities: "African American women are nearly four times as likely as white women to die in child-birth. That is, while 9.3 white women per 100,000 died in childbirth, 34.7 African American women died. And this is a criminal disparity, one that is all the more shocking given that other racial disparities in the report were narrowing. Whether the causes are poor health, poor health care, poor insurance coverage, or -- likely -- all of the above, there is no excuse for the injustice that being black is a risk factor putting some pregnant women at death's door."  (rest of article at No Country for Mothers)

Medicaid, the US public health care program isn’t typically identified as a women’s program, yet 69% of its adult beneficiaries are women. Medicaid also finances 41% of all births in the United States and 61% of publicly funded family planning services.

Global Safe Abortion: Monica Roa, the 31-year-old lawyer who argued a case before Colombia's Supreme Court that liberalized the nation's restrictive abortion law in May 2006, shared her winning strategies at the Global Safe Abortion Conference in October 2007 in London. (read article in Women's eNews)

Kenya's maternal death rates are among the highest in the world, despite its relative prosperity, health care reforms and funding. Beatings of women in labor in hospital maternity wards are common, as are rejections of women without funds.(read article in Women's eNews)

Eliminate Discrimination Against Women - CEDAW

"Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so." -- from the United Nations report of the International Conference on Population and Development, Special Report on Family Planning, Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 1994.

June 16, 2008 - Just in time for Father’s Day, at its annual meeting last weekend, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution to introduce legislation outlawing home birth, and potentially making criminals of the mothers who choose home birth with the help of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) for their families.

get the full press release here

and news coverage here

Why Caring Communities Must Oppose C.R.A.C.K./Project Prevention: How C.R.A.C.K. Promotes Dangerous Propaganda and Undermines the Health and Well Being of Children and Families by Lynn Paltrow in the Journal of Law in Society

Did You Know:

  • In 2008, almost 50% of low-income immigrant children are not covered by health insurance.
  • 48% of Latinas report that their partner's violence against them increased since they immigrated to the USA, and immigrant Asian women have one of the hightest domestic violence fatality rates in the nation.
  • Half of all migrant farmworker families earn less than $10,000 per year, far below the US poverty level of $20,650 for a family of four.


The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Nonprofitndustrial Complex - by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence - Available from Published in 2007.

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and their communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing.

Killing the Black Body - by Dorothy Roberts in 1998.

"Reproductive freedom is a matter of social justice," she says, stating further that it is social inequality, more than any legal interference, that severely limits African American women's ability to choose how and whether to have children. "We need a way of rethinking the meaning of liberty so that it protects all citizens equally," Roberts writes. "I propose that focusing on the connection between reproductive rights and racial equality is the place to start."

YELL-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American

By Vickie Nam

Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

By Helen Zia


page updated April 13, 2009

We cannot focus solely on one aspect of a woman’s life, whether at work, at school, at home, or on the streets. We need to understand how reproductive oppression may exist in all arenas of her life and recognize that she may have to walk through all of these arenas in a single day. Eveline Shen, How pro-choice activists can work to build a comprehensive movement

Feminist Women's Health Center home
Welcome to Feminist Women's Health Center
Women's Health
Poetry and Prose by feminists
Your Stories-Real Life Personal Abortion Stories
Abortion info from Feminist Women's Health Center Birth Control Comparison
Teens - sexual health info
Women's Health Questions and Answers
Espanol - Spanish
Take Pro-Choice Action
News & Views
Resources: books, websites, organization
Abortion Clinics - Feminist Abortion Network For Sale - speculum, tools for self exam, books Links Site Index Search