Reproductive Justice and Intersectionality


The language and the words we use to describe essential sexual and reproductive health services and issues is extremely important. For women of color, the ability to realize and control their reproductive health and autonomy is often impacted by other factors like race, poverty, sexism, and more. Jessica Pinckney, Vice President of Government Affairs at In Our Own Voice: the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda talks to us about reproductive justice as an all-encompassing human rights framework that seeks to ensure choice for all.

It’s important to have definitions for vocabulary that is often used in reproductive health, rights, and justice spaces. Reproductive health largely refers to service delivery- examples include Planned Parenthood or your local reproductive health clinic. This space emphasizes the need for services for individuals who require reproductive health. The reproductive rights space is focused on legal advocacy and analyzing barriers folks face when trying to access reproductive health services, especially abortion. The reproductive justice space is a movement that works to examine women’s reproductive lives and how they are challenged by power inequities that are inherent in our institutions, culture, and environment, with solutions that are intersectional and comprehensive.

Intersectionality is a term that was originally coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar out of Harvard, but the term has a long history and deep roots. Black feminists, through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, developed a model around intersectionality to address oppression was based on race, class, and gender, and ultimately impacted women of color in a unique way.

The reproductive justice movement is rooted in a human rights framework, or guidelines and codes for how humans should coexist and how society should be maintained. It can also refer to the way the government interacts with individuals, communities, corporations and organizations. The reproductive justice movement adheres to the human rights framework as outlined by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 1940’s, which established guidelines for what a government can and cannot do for its people.

Reproductive justice centers on the whole person, goes beyond reproductive health issues, and instead focuses on reproductive oppression, which is the control and exploitation of individuals’ bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction. In present day, we see reproductive oppression through the criminalization of women who use drugs while pregnant, parental notification and consent laws as well as rigorous judicial bypass laws for minors who are looking to access abortion care, and 20-week abortion bans, among other examples.

Reproductive justice can only be achieved when all women, girls, and femmes have the complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, families, communities, and all aspects of their lives.

Photo by nappy from Pexels

Links from this episode
In Our Own Voice: The National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
In Our Own Voice on Facebook
In Our Own Voice on Twitter
Intersectionality Matters! A podcast by Kimberlé Crenshaw and AAPF

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