February is Black History Month – a time to elevate Black voices, pay homage to Black culture, and honor the vital role Black Americans have played in American history. That’s why we want to uplift the revolutionary work of the Reproductive Justice (RJ) movement. The United States has a 500-year history of racializing reproductive law and policy, and barriers to achieving reproductive justice to this day are often rooted in race. The RJ movement is leading change throughout the country. Below, we highlight and celebrate the RJ framework and organizations using it to build a brighter, more just future.
What is Reproductive Justice?
SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice (RJ) as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Black people have always fought for RJ, but an organized movement launched in 1994 by 12 Black women, many associated with SisterSong, who recognized the need to speak out against the serious limits of choice faced by people of color. The founders of RJ also recognized that choice, a word conceived by white feminists, focused on preventing conception and motherhood, which doesn’t recognize the barriers people of color have faced – from enslavement through the 21st century – in their right to reproduce.
As shared by Loretta Ross in Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, “Reproductive justice uses a human rights framework to draw attention to – and resist – laws and public and corporate policies based on racial, gender, and class prejudices. The [framework] makes claims on the incarceration system, the immigration system, and the health care system, for example… to recognize and protect the reproductive health and parenting rights of persons under their purview.”
It’s been nearly 50 years since the passage of Roe v. Wade, yet female sexuality and reproduction are still at the heart of American politics. Abortion rights are just a part of what a world with RJ would look like. We are not a RJ organization, but we are committed to supporting the work of Black organizers, activists, and leaders who are striving to achieve reproductive justice for all. Their work is critical.
How Can I Learn More?
Here are a few RJ organizations you can support, uplift, and learn more about this Black History Month and beyond. This list is not exhaustive and we encourage you to find the RJ organizations leading change in your state and community!