Reproductive Justice: A positive approach to Sexuality, Health and Human Rights

Reproductive Justice: A positive approach to Sexuality, Health and Human Rights

By Emma Fox and Juliana Madzia

Reproductive Justice is not a term that many people are familiar with. At least, this is how we felt when we enrolled in this Sociology 2099 class. We had some vague idea of what it might mean; we both had interests and experience in feminism and health, and thought maybe it would be a good combination of the two.  Upon first hearing the term, many may assume Reproductive Justice has something to do with abortion or birth control, but not much else. In actuality, abortion rights and access to birth control really just scratch the surface of the purview of Reproductive Justice. As this class set out to do, our definitions of Reproductive Justice have broadened to ones that are more inclusive, more intersectional, and more informed.

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Reproductive Justice is more than just Birth Control and Abortion

Reproductive Justice is more than just Birth Control and Abortion

By Mary Siskaninetz ’19

Sociology 2099, a course on Reproductive Justice, has been the most life changing class in my college career so far. It made me realize that I do not just have to sit by the sidelines on issues about women’s rights and reproductive justice. This class was specifically important to me because it made me rethink my whole career. I never thought of pursuing or looking up a job in reproductive health. Now, I am considering changing majors in order to be qualified to do reproductive justice work.

I think everyone should take this class. Not only to educate people on reproductive justice issues, but to eliminate wrong and shameful misinformation that circulates American media and culture. Environmental, racial, socio-economic issues can all play into how you receive healthcare.

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Reproductive Justice: Creating Change in the greater Cincinnati area

Reproductive Justice: Creating Change in the greater Cincinnati area

By Danielle Bessett

Picture of women of different races

Photo courtesy of www.forharriet.com

What is “reproductive justice”?

The word “reproduction” might conjure ideas about medicine and health care services, especially the ways we care for pregnancy and birth in the U.S. “Justice,” on the other hand, often evokes legality and smacks of legal battles, especially the contentious struggles over abortion nationally and right here in Ohio. These two frameworks – commonly referred to as “reproductive health” and “reproductive rights,” respectively – are critically important to insuring the autonomy, equality, health, and well-being of women and their families, but we can’t achieve reproductive justice by focusing just on medicine or the law or adding the two together. Reproductive justice is both complementary to these two frameworks and broader than them.

Women dancing artwork

Photo courtesy of africanakaleidoscopes.com

Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (now Forward Together) defines reproductive justice as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” Perhaps it is no surprise that Black women (through the organization SisterSong) originated this term, since they and other women of color have long been devalued as mothers and disproportionately subjected to involuntary sterilization, interference with their parenting, and other challenges that have led them to prioritize not only the right to abortion, but also the rights to have children and to parent them.

UC Honors Class Researches Inclusive Social Movement Practices

Drawing from their experiences, Loretta Ross insists that a truly inclusive movement must reflect the fundamental tenet that “a woman’s societal institutions, environment, economics and culture affect her reproductive life.” Legal rights and appropriate, respectful health care are necessary, but so too are efforts to address poverty, racism, environmental degradation, militarism, and other oppressions.

Our class (Sociology 2099) is taking this mandate seriously this fall. We are:

  • learning about infant and maternal mortality, both nationally and here in Cincinnati.
  • discussing the public debates about birth, abortion, and surrogacy, as well as the facts and perspectives that are sometimes occluded in those debates.
  • studying both past reproductive injustices and recent social movements’ successes in our efforts to identify lessons for the future.

Service Learning with Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission

Across all of these topics, we will pay particular attention to issues of inequality: Whose parenting is valued and whose is not? Whose mothering is encouraged and supported and whose is not? Whose children flourish and whose cannot? And we won’t do it alone. We will be joined by expert guest speakers, many of whom are working to improve reproductive conditions in the greater Cincinnati area.

We are also delighted to partner with Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) for service learning this fall. Service learning helps us to understand these issues from a slightly different perspective, and it also allows us to be part of the solution. It also helps us engage holistically, as the reproductive justice framework requires: NKCAC fights poverty by providing a range of services that support individuals and families and helping them gain skills and independence.

I can’t wait to see what this fall holds for us, not least because this course is for the first time part of the UC Honors program. From time to time, students will post blogs from our class, reporting on the work we are doing. I hope you will follow our journey!

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