Why Should I Care About Reproductive Justice?

With so many issues facing voters this November, you might find yourself in conversations with friends and family members who are unclear on why reproductive justice is an issue that matters. Below are some questions/comments that might come up and here are some responses that we hope will help you convince those who are dubitative.

I’m more concerned about racial justice, poverty, healthcare, and the environment than reproductive rights.

The term “reproductive justice,” defined by the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, shows how certain issues affecting all of human beings intersect with reproduction. Their definition of reproductive justice is “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”

For example, the idea of reproductive “choice” isn’t as meaningful when racist structures prevent women of color from being able to access reproductive health services.

I’m opposed (or neutral about) abortion.

Reproductive justice includes more than just access to abortion. It includes access to affordable birth control and to accurate sex education, both of which reduce the likelihood of unintended pregnancies and therefore the need for abortion. Reproductive justice also includes the right to have children, so this would include the right to not be pressured into or forced into abortion or sterilization.

Wasn’t the question of abortion settled in 1973 with Roe v. Wade?

 Roe v. Wade still stands, but the State laws surrounding abortion are becoming a real problem and are not as settled as you might think. And there is no Federal law giving women the right to an abortion. Roe v Wade is based on an interpretation of privacy rights in the 9th and 14th amendments to the Constitution. A different Supreme court, such as the one currently sitting, could have a different interpretation of Roe v Wade.

And, many States have enacted laws that restrict the timeframe in which abortions can be performed (such as “heartbeat” laws, meaning as soon as you can hear a heartbeat, abortion is illegal). Other State laws, such as Ohio have made abortion totally illegal and  subject to capital punishment.

Other State laws restrict how and when abortion may be carried out and when.

For example; the Supreme Court just rendered a decision in the June Medical case stating the Louisiana’s law restricting physicians who can perform abortions to only those who have admitting practices in a nearby hospital is unconstitutional thereby confirming an earlier decision concerning Texas legislation. But the majority of the court was 5-4 and this could change with a change in the Court. These State laws and the Supreme Court cases can change at any time, which could have the result of  making the right to an abortion virtually meaningless or even totally illegal. As always, women who don’t have access to certain amount of resources will be more affected than others.

I’m a man, so women’s issues don’t involve me.

While you might not be confronted with reproductive justice issues as directly as women might be, recognize that these issues are human rights issues. When a significant portion of our society is unable to have a say in whether and how they reproduce – which in turn affects their health and their economic and social wellbeing – this is not just a women’s problem, this is society’s problem. Men participate in decision-making at every level of the healthcare, business and legal structures that impede the aims of reproductive justice. Men in these positions should take the time to understand and consider the reproductive justice implications of their decisions.

How can I use my vote to support reproductive justice?

 Find out where candidates stand on these issues. Planned Parenthood has created a “2020 Congressional Scorecard” showing how Senators, Representatives, and candidates have voted on key legislation related to women’s health care and rights. For more information on candidates, see the GWC’s Candidate Information Action Team, as well as Emily’s List, an organization whose mission is to get pro-choice Democratic women elected to office. Finally, remember Supreme court and Federal court judges are appointed for life and it is the President who nominates Supreme Court justices and other Federal judges who are then ratified by the Senate. So we need not only to take back the Presidency, but the Senate as well for lot’s of reasons.