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An Introduction to Reproductive Justice

When people hear the phrase reproductive justice, their minds often go straight to abortion rights and the right to choose one’s reproductive path. However, reproductive justice is about much more than the right NOT to have a child. The reproductive justice framework was introduced by women of color to take back their sexual freedom and fight against white supremacist eugenics programs. Current reproductive activism often centers around the individual choice of women to have or not have children. However, we need to re-center the framework of reproductive health to include the most marginalized people as well as understand that having a choice is a privilege many cannot afford. For example, women of color have had and continue to fight for their right to bodily autonomy, only to have their choice stripped from them due to racist and classist structures. Reproductive inequality stems from white supremacist notions. The laws and regulations put into place by the Trump administration continue to uphold such ideals. Whether it be a lack of access to abortion, forced sterilization, or unequal access to parental resources, reproductive politics are closely tied to the upkeep of a white nation.  

Marginalized communities have always had to fight for their right to parent their children in safe environments. Since the beginning of this nation, white individuals were seen as legitimate, while people of color were seen as illegitimate; unable to continue a “pure” genealogy due to their skin color. When America was first founded, Native children were stripped from their families and taken to be raised “properly.” White colonizers wanted a white nation, which meant that Native children either had to assimilate completely or be removed from the picture altogether. 

During the 20th century, women of color specifically were affected by strict reproductive laws and rules. Oftentimes marginalized groups, especially people in poverty, were targets of reproductive discrimination. Women of color were often seen as unfit mothers due to their skin color and their economic positionality and were sometimes forced into sterilization procedures. The class structure in the United States is directly and undeniably entangled with race. People of color have not had the access or resources to improve their economic class status, which means they often are not extended a choice in whether they reproduce or not. An excellent book on reproductive justice that centers people of color is “Reproductive Justice: An Introduction,” by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger. In this text, the authors explain that people of color are not considered a priority to the United States government, meaning “their bodies were not worth policing.” While individual choice and access to abortion are important parts of the reproductive justice framework, they are not broad enough to encompass the needs of people of color.  

It is crucial that we take the Trump administration’s attack on reproductive health seriously. It regulates the already limited control marginalized people have over their bodies and feeds white supremacist ideals that argue people of color do not have a place in America. 

Picture Credit: 1, 2

Rachael Jenkins is a junior at the University of Utah.
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