What is Reproductive Justice?

Reproductive Justice is defined by SisterSong as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Coined by African American women in 1994, it is a framework that moves beyond the presentation of abortion rights as simply a matter of choice. It recognizes that without access to abortion, reproductive choice does not exist.

As Loretta Ross, former National Coordinator of SisterSong writes, “Reproductive Justice is, in fact, a paradigm shift beyond demanding gender equality or attaching abortion rights to a broader reproductive health agenda. All of these concepts are, in fact, encompassed by the Reproductive Justice framework. RJ is an expansion of the theory of intersectionality developed by women of color and the practice of self-help from the Black women’s health movement to the reproductive rights movement, based on the application of the human rights framework to the United States. Reproductive justice is in essence an intersectional theory emerging from the experiences of women of color whose multiple communities experience a complex set of reproductive oppressions. It is based on the understanding that the impacts of race, class, gender and sexual identity oppressions are not additive but integrative, producing this paradigm of intersectionality. For each individual and each community, the effects will be different, but they share some of the basic characteristics of intersectionality – universality, simultaneity and interdependence.

Reproductive Justice is a positive approach that links sexuality, health, and human rights to social justice movements by placing abortion and reproductive health issues in the larger context of the well-being and health of [individuals], families and communities because reproductive justice seamlessly integrates those individual and group human rights particularly important to marginalized communities. We believe that the ability of any [person] to determine [their] own reproductive destiny is directly linked to the conditions in [their] community and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access” (Ross, Understanding Reproductive Justice, 2006, updated 2011).

Colorado Doula Project identifies as a reproductive justice organization because we recognize that many intersecting factors influence a person’s ability to make reproductive decisions. Our advocacy and activism aims to address structural inequities that influence decision making across the spectrum of reproductive experience.

To learn more about SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, visit their website.