Understanding Reproductive Justice
Loretta Ross, National Coordinator
©SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective
November 2006 (Updated March 2011)
Since SisterSong nationally debuted the term “Reproductive Justice” at our first national conference in November 2003, the term has blossomed in the consciousness of the reproductive rights movement, including activists, funders, researchers, academics, and advocates. Many individuals, groups and organizations find the term helpful in moving beyond the singular focus on abortion that dominates the pro-choice movement. People in other social justice movements find it useful in incorporating an understanding of reproductive health issues in organizations not primarily concerned with women’s rights. It also provides a way to link groups concerned about sexual rights and gender identity issues with those working on reproductive issues. A Google search in November 2006 on the term produced 76,000 hits, proving the wide acceptance and usefulness for a term coined in 1994 by African American women after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. According to Marlene Fried of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College, reproductive justice provides a political home for a set of ideas, aspirations and visions in language that encompasses all the social justice and human rights issues.
Because of the popularity and viability of the term Reproductive Justice, or RJ as we call it, SisterSong is concerned that people who use the term with our free and open permission understand what we mean by this language, because it is not merely a substitute for the terms “pro-choice,” “reproductive rights,” or even “sexual rights.” While we are encouraged at how quickly the term was adopted and adapted by so many allies in our movements, we hope that those who use the term fully appreciate its breadth, depth and strength.