Women have protested, marched, and fought for social justice and equality in society, from equal representation in the workforce to increased opportunities in education, and respect in their own homes. Even though women have made tremendous strides toward their goal of equality, many individuals have failed to reap the same benefits. This casualty represents intersectionality and how marginalized groups of people continue to lack the same opportunities as other people because of interwoven and interlocking forms of discrimination. These groups include people of color, the disabled, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, immigrants, poor, and uneducated people. These individual’s differences increase their likelihood of not receiving good healthcare, a fair education, jobs and so much more. More importantly, people oppressed because of the identities are also more susceptible to efforts of reproductive control. This paper attempts to define reproductive justice and its goal in creating a better and healthier world for marginalized people. Reproductive justice initiatives challenge traditional abortion movements, apprises people about the various health disparities minorities face, and argues against forms of socialization.
Reproductive justice activists argue that the traditional abortion and non-abortion movements fail to include every woman. “Frustrated by the individualist approach of the choice paradigm used by the mainstream reproductive rights movements in the U.S., a growing coalition of women of color organizations and their allies have sought to redefine and broaden the scope of reproductive rights by using human rights framework” (Price, 2010). Women who have a choice when it comes to decisions about their bodies are mostly white upper-class women. These movements neglect to identify the various cultural and social barriers many women of color, women in the LGBT community, and immigrants experience daily, that hinders their access to affordable healthcare and reproductive assistance. Reproductive justice does not dismiss the goals of pro-choice movements, it simply expands the definition of reproductive rights that includes the physical health and well-being for all women despite their race, gender, economic or class status. “This connects reproductive rights to other social justice issues…and this new framework will encourage more women of color and other marginalized groups to become more involved in the political movement for reproductive freedom” (Price, 2010). People tend not to support organizations or systems that claim to be for human rights while abandoning other individuals that don’t fit the ideal person they are trying to protect. Marginalized people have been oppressed for far too long, and this lack of care and inclusion furthers the divide between people living in a similar area. Such division leads to independent activist groups, such as black feminist and various LGBT groups, that have been instrumental in the betterment of those communities. However, reproductive justice initiatives seek to understand and identify these differences to figure out a way for interdependence, where every human being supports and depends on every other person despite distinct characteristics. For example, women of color, LGBT members, etc., should not only be included in the discussion about abortion rights, but they should also be given government assistance that ensures that they eventually have a choice when it comes to their reproductive rights.
Sufrin suggests that “reproductive justice will be achieved when all people have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for themselves and their families.” Disadvantaged communities not only rarely have a choice when it comes to their reproductive rights, but they also experience an imbalance in care when they receive health assessments and resources. Studies have shown that individuals involved in the criminal justice system are more likely to be affected by numerous health concerns that increase their chances of arrest and abnormal behavior. Many people in prisons represent the lower class, communities that have been neglected and passed over for affordable healthcare and fair medical needs. “Ask any women and she’ll tell you; healthcare for women is more expensive than it is for men. In fact, during their reproductive years, women spend 68% more on healthcare than men do” (Blagojevich). Marginalized communities constantly have monetary and social obstacles that clandestinely ensures that they remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy. More specifically, women incarcerated have little control over the healthcare they receive and the prison environment is contaminated with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and poorly constructed labor units. Regardless of the criminal offense, each person should be given decent and respectable rights when it comes to their health and their child’s health in prison. At this point it’s not about having contraceptives to avoid pregnancies, it’s about having access to resources that protect the overall health of each woman. Similarly, to the prison system, many members of the LGBT community become ill because of the lack of desire to treat those individuals and the failure to include their reproductive rights in the discussion regarding reproductive healthcare. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, while widely diverse in many ways, share health disparities related to the stigma and discrimination they experience, including the disproportionate rate of psychiatric disorders, substance abuses, and suicides” (McKay, 2011). LBGT members have less access to classes that teach about the different sexual orientations and the increased risk that homosexuals and transgenders face. When they are informed about such education, they face discrimination that allows legal systems and fertility companies to make laws that make it hard for them to seek great care. In addition, negative connotations regarding this community consequently result in these individuals postponing, and in some cases, completely ignoring health screenings and other preventive health assessments. These groups of people are placed in numerous environments that infects and leaves them vulnerable to many diseases, physically and mentally, without any formula for the cure.
Before society is able to explain and eliminate reproductive inequality, the entire structure and foundation of this injustice must be dissected, examined, and reattached. There are reproductive injustices in the world because for so long people have been following “norms” and “expectations” written and inculcated by male leaders and reinforced by women. Professional organizations, toy companies, political leaders, etc., have created rules for women, men, people of color, and other groups to follow. For example, in some religious communities, it is shameful for a woman to take any precautions regarding birth control and those who not only partake in this practice but individuals that even desire this contraception are sinful and evil. Women in this culture start to internalize this belief and soon participate in this ever-growing cycle of control over women’s reproduction rights. Not only are the women affected, but every child and person that follows in their footsteps is also impacted. This is also evident in black households, where it is encouraged to have multiple kids, not because the bible tells you to multiply, but because the more hands there is the more work that can be accomplished. Reproductive justice attempts to dismantle this socialization by teaching people that there is not a need to follow traditional norms. The goal is to acknowledge these structures and redirect them in a way that expresses the free choice of people everywhere regarding their reproductive rights. Jaworski believes that we can achieve this objective by using “different types of media related to women’s reproduction to help young men and women develop skills for critically deconstructing and reframing messages about sex and reproduction put forth by various forms of media”. The way religious institutions, the media, schools, and the government portray reproduction must change in order for each individual to consume in reproduction rights and all of its benefits.
Reproductive justice organizations and activists primary goal is to ensure the health and mental care for every person regardless of their gender, race, economic background, culture, and class status. They accomplish this desire by explaining the misconceptions and limitations of various movements such as the abortion movement, eliminating the health disparities that harm the disadvantaged and reconstructing social ideals and rules that hinder and restrict many individuals from experiencing free control over their sexuality and reproductive rights. We as people must not only realize that marginalized people are at greater risk of reproductive oppression but we must create settings and procedures that ensure that those individuals have access to acceptable, affordable, and obtainable healthcare, physically, emotionally, and mentally.