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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Reproductive Justice: Big Enough for the Both of Us?

A prochoice feminist who engages in dialogue with prolife feminists just remarked to me about how compelling she finds the vision of reproductive justice. And I responded that while I probably saw the place of abortion in that vision differently than she did, I too found it compelling.

What is reproductive justice? It is a vision of human, including women's, rights, lives, and wellbeing that has arisen primarily from women who are of color, poor, queer, and/or disabled. According to one powerful articulation of it, it
  • "is rooted in the recognition of the histories of reproductive oppression"
  • "uses a model grounded in organizing women and girls to change structural power inequalities"
  • focuses "on the control and exploitation of women’s bodies, sexuality and reproduction as an effective strategy of controlling women and communities, particularly those of color. Controlling a woman’s body controls her life, her options and her potential. Historically and currently, a woman’s lack of power and self-determination is mediated through the multiple oppressions of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age and immigration status."

The voices of reproductive justice have often arisen and mobilized in part as a response to a prochoice movement that focuses primarily or exclusively on the issue of legalized abortion, and sometimes ignores or outright condones its own complicities with eugenic and coercive population control policies.

Many who have publicly identified with a reproductive justice approach believe it includes a right to abortion, even as it does not stop there. But it often occurs to me that it could be--and in many respects already is--the way to describe the framework from which many prolife feminists critique abortion while advocating for other reproductive concerns they share with prochoice feminists.

Many prolife feminists, after all, either come from or seek solidarity with the same constituencies that have birthed the reproductive justice movement. I think some of our interest in and invocation of prolife feminist herstory is about connecting to foremothers' critiques of reproductive oppressions that continue into the present.

Is reproductive justice Big Enough for the Both of Us? By the "Both of Us," I mean prolife and prochoice feminists. I believe so. I hope so. A reproductive justice framework could help both "camps" more readily identify and act upon common concerns, including a shared wish to reduce abortions and uintended pregnancies.

And...dare I ask...Is reproductive justice Big Enough for the Both of Us in yet another sense? Big enough to fully, simultaneously encompass unborn and already-born lives. In effect at least it does seem to, on the whole. For example the call of reproductive justice activists to end the harms of environmental racism and classism against women will certainly also benefit any unborn children affected women may be carrying.

And I don't expect that every reproductive justice advocate who is prochoice will persuaded by prolife feminism...but I think some will, I believe some are there already. And at any rate reproductive justice leaves an opening to consider and address the considerable areas of overlap between oppressions of already-born humans and those of unborn humans.

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