When I hear people talking about Reproductive Justice, it’s usually around the context of whether you’re having babies or not having babies. What if I told you that the talk of children is only a fraction of the Reproductive Justice movement? Curious?
Before we can further explore Reproductive Justice (RJ), let’s first ground in the basics.
According to SisterSong, the collective of Black and racialized women who first coined the term Reproductive Justice, they define this movement as a blend of Reproductive Rights and Social Justice.
1. The right to have children
2. The right not to have children
3. The right to have bodily autonomy
4. The right to parent is a safe and supported community
To learn more about the role birthworkers play in Reproductive Justice, read this article I wrote on Reproductive Justice and Doulas
At first glance, it might seem like RJ is centered around children, but this is where I urge you to read between the lines. Let’s explore:
What does it mean to have the right to have children within a racist and fatphobic medical industrial complex?
What does it mean to have the right not to have children in a corrupt colonial cisgendered white heterosexual patriarchy?
What does it mean to have the right to bodily autonomy where disabled folks are constantly left out of the conversation?
What does it mean to have the right to parent in a safe and supported community when we systemically underserve Indigenous, Black and People of the Global Majority in western societies?
In highlighting these questions when it comes to the pillars, we can clearly see that there are different systems and factors at play in RJ.
Reproductive Justice isn’t just about babies. It’s about anti-fatphobia, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, queering our environments, disability justice, gender equity, BIPGM (Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority) safety, and more! This list is a far cry from what Reproductive Justice touches and the exploration of just how far RJ goes is exactly what I want us to think about every day.
Let this statement sink for a second. Your whole life is a reproductive transition. Using the logic that all parts of reproductive care should be supported... doesn’t this mean that you deserve support your entire life?
To further explain the notion of our whole lives being a reproductive transition, I’d like to use my lived experiences as a first-generation immigrant as an example.
In 2002, when I was 7 years old, my father successfully petitioned for me and my mom to come to Canada and move away from the Philippines. Growing up, I would constantly hear:
“Life in Canada is going to be better. There is a brighter future and opportunity here for you”.
I’m pretty sure the statement above is the official Immigrant Slogan™️.
As I grew older though, I started thinking… okay but why did I have to be plucked out of my own homeland in order to access “a better future”. What’s in Canada that we don’t have in the Philippines? In relating this to Reproductive Justice, does this mean that my parents weren’t able to parent me in a safe and supported environment? Was my homeland not good or sufficient enough for me to be raised in?
Of course it was – but, the West did too great of a job mining the Philippines (and countries neighbouring ours) for our resources to invest into their own Western communities leaving the Global South behind in this extraction. The West then turned around, repackaged our resources, and sold it to us as the American Dream; convincing us that our own homelands are not enough to support our dreams and the dreams of our children.
Reproductive Justice means retracing the resources. Reproductive Justice means anti-colonialism. Reproductive Justice means anti-capitalism.
The systems and the operations of Western extraction literally changed the course of my entire life. And not just mine – but others too. The fact that we’ve been sold the American Dream to leave our homelands thinking that our own homes are not good enough for us and instead pressuring us to invest in a completely new country, a completely new continent, a completely new life. We’re asked to invest in the systems who have extracted from our land in the first place – and now they’ve extracted us.
Did you know that Filipina migrant careworkers are the largest exports of the Philippines? Tell me again how this isn’t a Reproductive Justice issue when Filipinas are systemically trained to take care of the children of others (read: white and or wealthy families) IN ORDER to take care of our own.
As an aside, this makes me wonder about my own pursuit into carework. Am I caring because of nature? Or was I nurtured into becoming this way? A different exploration for a different time… but I wanted to put it out there regardless.
The story of my migration is my own. Perhaps some of you can see parallels in our stories, some of you may not. The baseline is that regardless of our lived experience, we all come across the products of Reproductive Justice every day.
From the neighbourhood you live in, the water you drink, the food you eat, the air you breathe – it’s all a part of RJ. All of these things mentioned: housing, water, food, air – the very basic components to live – all touch the four pillars of RJ. Let’s explore:
1. The right to have children. Think of your body and identity. Are you cis? Are you white? Are you heterosexual? Are you skinny? Chances are you are more protected within the medical industrial system because of the colour of your skin, your “ideal” weight, and your identities as it relates to cis white heterosexuality. QTBIPGM and fat folks are largely at risk of harm and trauma when it comes to accessing reproductive care services simply because of their identities. Reproductive Justice is anti-racism, anti-oppression, anti-fatphobia, and queering up spaces!
2. The right not to have children. Think of your social location. Are you documented? Are you able to utilize your identification and status in order to access an abortion? Think of your neighbourhood. Do you have accessible reproductive care centers and supports available to you in order to have an abortion? Reproductive Justice is #StatusForAll, #AbortionAccessNow, and investing in racialized neighbourhoods that are systemically underserved!
3. The right to bodily autonomy: Are you Black and or Indigenous? Did you know that Black and Indigenous bodies are historically the target for eugenic practices and non-consensual operations such as hysterectomies? Were you aware that Black and or Indigenous bodies are at the highest risk of harm at the hands of the medical industrial complex and all the complexes that we are surrounded with? Reproductive Justice is decolonization, Black liberation, Indigenous First, and #HandsOffOurBodies!
4. The right to parent in a safe and supported community: Let’s circle back to the neighbourhood you live in, your housing, your food, your water, the air you breathe. The quality and quantity of these resources all relates to being in a supported community. Think of the land you are settled on. If you are non-Indigenous and settled on Turtle Island, you are living on stolen land. Thinking of your community. Are you settled in a mostly racialized neighbourhood? Are you constantly surveilled by cops? Does police presence affect your day to day? Reproductive Justice is food equity, food sovereignty, environmental justice, abolition, and #LandBack!
Reminder again that this exploration only covers a small portion of the liberation practices that Reproductive Justice is tied to, but even in this small article we’ve already covered so much.
You should care about Reproductive Justice even if you don’t want babies because Reproductive Justice is the basis of your whole life.
When life begins, RJ is there. When life ends, RJ is there. The time we spend living our lives between life and death is where we fight for Reproductive Justice.
is queering up our spaces
is investing in racialized neighbourhoods that are systemically underserved
is Black liberation
is Indigenous First
is food equity
is food sovereignty
is environmental justice
is #LandBack is EVERYTHING.
Want to continue the conversation of Reproductive Justice?
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