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What Is Reproductive Justice?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Reproductive justice is a feminist and progressive philosophy that emphasizes the right of all women, regardless of race, nationality, or social class, to make their own decisions about childbearing and their reproductive health. The term reproductive justice was adopted by many progressive feminist groups, particularly those made up of women of color, in the 1990s to communicate their commitment to a broad spectrum of reproductive rights. These groups typically argued that a consideration of reproductive rights, including the right to abortion and access to contraception, must be considered a social justice issue rather than just a matter of private choice. Advocates of this philosophy frequently critique mainstream abortion and contraception advocates for framing the discussion of reproductive rights as a matter of choice, which fails to acknowledge the ways in which racism and economic disparities limit the choices of many women. As such, those who perceive reproductive rights as a matter of justice argue that, while women should have access to contraception and abortion services, they should equally have access to prenatal care and be protected against unwanted sterilization or invasive family-planning measures.

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In the 1990s, the ideas of reproductive justice began to attract notice in various progressive social movements, such as those that advocated for social justice and women's rights. Feminists of color and other anti-racist activists argued that simply making it legal to obtain abortion or contraceptive services does not actually provide access to reproductive health services. In a framework of reproductive justice, women would not be limited in their reproductive choices by a lack of funds or the inability to access quality care. Women would also not be discouraged by public policy, heath care workers, or social service employees from having children simply because of their economic situation, race, or ethnicity. Instead, women would be given access to medical and other services that would help them to have a healthy pregnancy, experience safe childbirth, and be able to provide a secure home for their children.

Advocates of reproductive justice also seek the provision of culturally sensitive sexual health services. These services would help all women to protect their reproductive health and receive effective treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health issues. In addition to accessible health care services, reproductive justice would also mandate the availability of quality sex education, which would better enable individuals to participate fully in decisions about their sexual behavior and sexual health and whether they wish to parent a child.

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