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


Jennie Wetter: Welcome to rePROs Fight Back a podcast on all things repro. I'm your host Jenny Wetter. In each episode, I'll be taking you to the front lines of the escalating fight over our sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad. Each episode, I will be speaking with leaders who are fighting to protect our reproductive health and rights to ensure that no one's reproductive health depends on where they live. It's time for repros to fight back.

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Jennie Wetter: Hi everybody and welcome to rePROs Fight Back. I'm your host Jennie Wetter. And today we are going to talk about reproductive justice and intersectionality. I'm excited to have this conversation today because I think those words often get thrown around a lot, but people often don't take the time to really understand what they mean. So today we're gonna focus on reproductive justice and intersectionality. I'm looking forward to having this great conversation today with Jessica Pinckney from In Her Own Voice, the national black women's reproductive justice agenda. Hi Jessica. Thanks so much for being here today.

Jessica Pickney: Hi Jennie. Thanks so much for having me.

Jennie Wetter: So I'm really excited for today's conversation. Again, I think it's just something that people think they know about but don't necessarily know a lot of the details and they just say the words.

Jessica Pickney: Absolutely. It's definitely accurate.

Jennie Wetter: So why don't we start at the beginning with reproductive justice? What is it?

Jessica Pickney: Yeah, so reproductive justice was coined by a group of black women in 1994 so this year is actually the 25th anniversary of the Reproductive Justice Movement. Um, so that's very exciting and also pretty daunting when we think about the progress that has been made over the last 25 years. But then also the process that the progress that still needs to be made, right. The concept of reproductive justice took shape when a group of women of color was part of a delegation in Cairo, Egypt for a conference on Population and development. And when they returned, they were attending a, a pro choice event in Illinois. And, um, there was a discussion being had around President Bill Clinton's health care reform at the time. And, um, the women were really concerned because the healt hcare reform proposal didn't include access to abortion. Um, so they were finding, you know, they were in Illinois for this quote unquote pro choice, uh, caucus. There were all these conversations being had about the need for reform in the health care space, but abortion and other reproductive health issues were being left out of the conversation. And they were just finding that the word choice was actually being really limited. So I think to the point you were making earlier, um, language is important and the words we are using in the movement do have meaning behind them and do matter. So they were just thinking that the, the choice language really didn't center, um, the experiences of a lot of, of communities. It wasn't rooted in social justice and human rights. So they coined this term reproductive justice and actually debuted it in a Washington Post ad in 94. Um, and the concept is really that for women of color, the ability to control and realize our reproductive health and autonomy is impacted by other things like race, poverty, um, sexism, environmental justice, violence. So it's this holistic, um, movement focues approach that we take to talking about, um, the lived experiences that individuals, so it's, it's a human rights framework. It includes bodily autonomy, it's really rooted in our humanity and our right to choose if and when to have a child and to be able to parent a child in a safe environment, free from harm free from pollution, so on and so forth.

Jennie Wetter: I didn't realize that... I mean I knew reproductive justice has been around for a while. I guess I just didn't realize that it happened during the same time that the Cairo conference happened, which we haven't really talked about a lot on the podcast yet, but since it is the 25th anniversary, I'm sure we'll get to it sometime this year. And by that I mean I will talk about it later this year, but yeah, it's so great to see a framework that is so inclusive of the fuller experience. Cause I do, I feel like when you talk about choice, it's just focused on this one part. Right. And it's nice to have the much bigger conversation.

Jessica Pickney: Yeah. Choice is impacted by so many things, right? Like if you don't have access to quality health care, do you really have a choice? If you don't have access to say to clean drinking water or a safe home, um, if you don't have access to childcare or paid leave or a fair wage, do you really have choice? Um, so I think it's really breaking down what we think choice means and thinking broader about, uh, the multiple impacts on people's lives. And so I think it's a really powerful movement and statement. Um, the one thing I always say about RJ is it's everything. And so that's one of the comparisons between reproductive health and rights versus reproductive justice is like, we're not just talking womb centric, um, issues and policy, but we're really talking about the whole person and the different experiences that bring them to where they are today and the, the systemic and structural change they need to see to be able to live full, whole lives.

Jennie Wetter: Particularly at, because we're recording this, even though it's not coming out now. But, uh, we we're recording it during black maternal health week. Is thinking about, you know, again you talked about do you have a choice if you don't have access to the services and how other things impact how you are, how your health is. So, and I think the biggest place you can see that is around black maternal mortality, which is about three to four times higher than white maternal mortality.

Jessica Pickney: Yep, absolutely. And it is entirely racial health disparity, right? It does not have, it does not care about your income, your, your geography. It is entirely based on race that you would be more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. And so that's really scary. It's incredibly hard to get folks mind wrapped around that. Like I always use the example of Serena Williams because if there's anyone who has more access to money and quality health care and resources, she has a white husband. I mean she literally has all the access and she could have died after birth. Right. And so it doesn't matter about any of the access we have its totally based on provider bias that exists in the health care system and just kind of a, a mistrust and not believing black women when they're saying they're in pain or when we're saying, um, something is wrong. And so that is a much harder quote unquote problem to solve, right? Because it's not just like we can change one policy and the world will be better. It's really changing the way people think about health care and how we, how we access individuals. And I think one thing we talk a lot about in the reproductive justice movement too is, is centering individuals as, as people. They're not just patients, they're not just mothers. Um, they're not just wives or caretakers. So I think that's something that's really important to think about in the maternal health space as well, is these are human beings who are bringing other human beings into the world and let's acknowledge that and treat them like that. They are so much more than a quote unquote patient.

Jennie Wetter: And so we started to talk a little bit about how reproductive justice is different than reproductive health and rights, but do we want to dig into that a little bit?

Jessica Pickney: Yeah, sure. So this is my favorite. I always like making the comparisons for people. I have a great slide deck on this. So reproductive health is really the service delivery aspect. Um, so I think the, uh, the comparison I always make, cause I think it, uh, is most related relatable for folks is Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood clinics. Um, our reproductive health clinics, they're providing reproductive health care services and the reproductive health, uh, space is really emphasizing the need for health care services, um, for individuals who require reproductive health. And it's certainly trying to address the lack of access to such care, the lack of research in that space. I think the movement in the policy space is really trying to expand services, expand access, expand research and work on, on prevention and uh, cultural competency, that kind of stuff. I think some of the limitations of the reproductive health space in particular are, um, the services and the education are really directed at the individual level, which is both a pro and a con. Um, I think it's harder to think holistically in the reproductive health space just because you're really focused on service delivery and the individual. And I think something that the reproductive justice movement tries to raise up is that sometimes the root causes of health disparities are not fully addressed in the reproductive health space as we were just saying with the maternal health. And it's really resource intensive, again, focused on prevention, quality of care. So I think that's, those are some of the, the benefits and, and limitations of the reproductive health space in particular.

Jessica Pickney: And then the reproductive rights space is really focused on legal advocacy. So analyzing the problems that folks, uh, encounter when trying to access care. Um, it's really working on legal protection and the laws that protect an individual's right to reproductive health services, especially abortion in a lot of cases. Um, the primary strategies are legal, legislative advocacy related both at the state and federal level. And the, the key players tend to be legal experts. I would say, uh, the focus on an individual's choice can kind of obscure the social context, uh, which it, which informs an individual's choice. Um, so I would say that's one of the limitations in the reproductive rights space. I think sometimes there's an assumption of a level of knowledge access to elected officials, um, or even belief in the effectiveness of the political system that exists in the reproductive rights space. Uh, that I would say isn't present in the reproductive justice space and is kind of what led led to the movement.

Jessica Pickney: And then for reproductive justice, it's, it's more of a movement versus a, you know, a service delivery model or um, a type of advocacy and reproductive justice. We're working to analyze women's reproductive lives and how they're challenged by power inequities, um, that are kind of inherent and our institutions, our culture, our environment. Um, the solutions are really, really centered on being intersectional and comprehensive. So I am all, I always described reproductive justice as a holistic approach. I would say some of the limitations in the reproductive justice movement is that we're challenging people personally and politically by asking them to adopt a worldview that is diametrically opposed to what we currently have to the status quo now. Um, so even in the reproductive justice movement, we're constantly having conversations about what we want the world to look like for the communities that we're representing day in and day out or the communities that we're lifting up day in and day out. It's, it's risky. The reproductive justice movement is risky, we're bold, we're unashamed. Um, there's a lot of direct action and there's a lot of of calling in and calling out that as part of the reproductive justice movement. Um, that is really important for transformational change. But, uh, I think that type of transformational change can really alarm people no matter where you are on a political spectrum. And it requires a level of accountability and cooperation among those who have previously been the most privileged in our society and culture. Um, and so those are, I would say, some of the challenges that we faced within the reproductive justice movement. But I think all aspects of reproductive health rights and justice are important and there are ways for us to work together and create space for each other to move health care and just the livelihood of women of color and other marginalized communities forward.

Jennie Wetter: Absolutely. Yeah. I think it's really important to have all of them and not just focus. I mean there are groups that obviously just focused on one and they are really important, but they also need to, we all need to make space for each other so that we're all part of the conversation. Um, and I'm just gonna make you do one thing cause I, I really love it and I think, um, it, it, I just learned the difference recently cause I am so not cool but uh, calling in versus calling out and I think they're great and they both have their place. Um, so just maybe like a clarification for any who are like me and maybe not as cool to know the difference between calling in and calling out.

Jessica Pickney: Yeah. I think calling out is, I don't know that I have like a formal definition for calling in or calling out, but the way I tend to use them calling out is, is regularly seen to be a little bit more assertive. Um, but it is, is essentially calling out someone for a particular behaviors or abuses, um, of power or the system or whatever the case may be. Acknowledging wrongdoing in some way, shape or form. Calling in is kind of doing the same, I think in a, in a way that allows for an ongoing conversation. It brings someone into the fold and kind of allows for an acknowledgement of privilege or an abuse of power or whatever the case may be, but also opens up more of a conversation and kind of a path forward for change, changemaking um, so those are my very informal definitions and I don't know if you have anything to add.

Jennie Wetter: No. Like I just, I'm so used to hearing and like the call out culture and like you, you just don't often hear about calling in as much and they're both really important.

Jessica Pickney: They are, and they're both hard.

Jennie Wetter: And then different uses. And not everybody should be expected to do both or either like it, we cannot be forcing women of color to do all of this work. Um, white people, we need to be calling in and calling out our own as well.

Jessica Pickney: Absolutely. Yeah, I think there's a time and place for both. Some actions are just so egregious that call out and be done with it. Um, but some actions are certainly egregious but deserve further conversation or there's an opportunity or a window to bring someone into the fold and think through a process to move forward in a more powerful and meaningful.

Jennie Wetter: Um, okay. So the other thing we wanted to make sure to touch on is intersectionality. So I feel like, again, this is another one of those words that you just hear a lot out there, but people don't really take the time to understand what it means or if they do, it's a really superficial understanding and not quite grasping the nuance of it.

Jessica Pickney: Yeah. The term intersectionality was originally coined by Kimberly Crenshaw. Um, she's a legal scholar out of Harvard and she essentially developed a body of work around critical race theory that, uh, questioned how institutional racism was influencing our legal system writ large.

Jennie Wetter: Just to flag I saw she had podcast now.

Jessica Pickney: Oh, I didn't know that.

Jennie Wetter: I have not listened to it yet. It's, I can't remember what it's called, but I will definitely flag it in the show notes on intersectionality. And I think just last I checked, um, it's not like weekly or anything. There were like two deep dive episodes on intersectionality. It's on my, I've downloaded it. I have not listened yet. Um, but I just thought I'd flag for people who really want to get steeped in it. I'm sure that is an amazing resource.

Jessica Pickney: Yeah. And she's got a ton of, of readings as well. That sounds awesome.

Jennie Wetter: Sorry for the interruption

New Speaker: No, you're fine. Um, so yeah. Kimberle Crenshaw originally, uh, coined the term, but I think the term really has a much longer history than that. Um, something that we say at In Our Own Voice is that sojourner truth really predicted intersectionally intersectionality when she declared ain't I a woman? Um, so it has roots deep in our history. And then black feminists were really developing a model around intersectionality through the sixties, seventies, and eighties, uh, to address how oppression was based on race, class, gender, and impacted women of color in a unique way. Something that I always like to lift up is the Combahee River Collective, um, which was a black lesbian organization in Boston. And in 1977, they published a collective statement that kind of details the genesis of black feminism and their beliefs, um, around black feminist issues in practice. And I always like to read this quote verbatim. I realize it's a little much, but it's just, it says so much without that, I couldn't say otherwise. Um, so the quote reads, "above all else, our politics initially spraying from the shared belief that black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity, not as an adjunct to somebody else's, but because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever considered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to black women such as mammy and matriarch, let alone cataloging the cruel, often murderous treatment we received indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western Hemisphere, we realized that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation is us. Our politics evolved from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community, which allows us to continue our struggle and work." So I just think that that's really powerful and it really centers what intersectionality is and how, um, we've gotten to the movement and that we are today.

Jennie Wetter: Yeah, no, I think that is a great quote. So we have intersectionality, we have reproductive justice. I think another thing you talk about a lot is the human rights framework. And how does that work into all this?

Jessica Pickney: We always say that the reproductive justice movement is rooted in a human rights framework. The human rights framework is essentially guidelines under which our society lives. They're really codes and in every society for how humans should coexist together in the context of the government. Specifically human rights refers to the relationship kind of between individuals, between communities, between, uh, organizations or corporations. And then of course, uh, the government itself, the human rights framework that, that the reproductive justice movement really operates under, um, kind of comes out of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was proclaimed by the UN in the forties, although it has gone through some adaptations since then. Um, and was, does develop to hold the government accountable. It establishes guidelines for what a government can and cannot do to its people. Um, it defines negative rights and affirmative rights and the, the western human rights framework focuses really on individual rights. So I think that's an important thing to note. The first five categories were declared in 1948 and then because of various social movements since then, more category categories have, um, been added. And I think it's very fair to say more will be. Sometimes when I do my RJ one-on-one presentation, I have the categories up on the slide. I ask folks to, to identify what they think is missing from the current framework. Um, so the, the, the eight basic human rights, our civil rights, which includes nondiscrimination, equality issues, economic rights, which is, you know, living wage workers, rights issues, cultural rights around religion, language access, accessibility, et cetera. Um, developmental rights around our ability to control our own natural resources, political rights around voting speech, uh, social rights, which includes health care, food, shelter, education, environmental rights, which includes clean air, water, um, non toxic environments. And last but not least, sexual rights, which includes abortion, contraception, pleasure, same sex rights, trans rights. So the social, political and sexual rights were the pieces that were added to the declaration later following the civil rights movement and a need for a broader framework. But some things that I always lift up in the framework that I think, um, don't get the attention they deserve are disability rights, um, are, are kind of lacking from the framework for sure.

Jennie Wetter: The US has still not signed onto the disability rights treaty.

Jessica Pickney: Yup, yup. So that's one that always, um, kind of grinds my personal gears. Um, and I also think, um, having same sex rights and Trans rights included in sexual rights, is, is a bit limiting.

Jennie Wetter: Has that been officially accepted? I don't, I, cause I know reproductive rights has, yeah. There is still a huge fight over sexual rights. So I think we were close. Right couple of years ago under the Obama administration, but now unfortunately the Trump administration obviously is not a champion of sexual rights, but they've also become trying to pull back the reproductive rights language as well. But yeah, I think that sexual rights is never been firmly accepted. No parts of it, but like how we would define it broadly in the global sphere has not yet been accepted. I think that's totally right.

Jessica Pickney: I think it's used, but not exactly right. A lot of reproductive health rights and justice organizations would define it the way I just defined it.

Jennie Wetter: Absolutely. 100%.

Jessica Pickney: Um, the broader society, government culture, not so much. Um, and I think it's a little bit limiting to, to have all of that kind of under the sexual rights framework, right? Because Trans individuals and other LGBTQ individuals are not just sexual beings. There are other intersections to their identities. Um, and so I think it's a little minimizing to, to categorize it that way. But, uh, something to think about for podcast listeners is what other aspects are lacking from the human rights framework because I think it will continue to grow and adapt as movements come into come into power or it dissolves because the issues get resolved. So yeah.

Jennie Wetter: So using all of these tools and then you have reproductive justice, how do you, how is it important, I guess, or why, why is it important for social movements?

Jessica Pickney: Yeah, so I think a lot of activists have generally worked on the issue of abortion privacy choice, um, as if those issues alone are defining the scope of women's reproductive health or justice. Right? So it's getting back to that conversation we had at the beginning around choice by defining the common problem as reproductive oppression. Um, we can develop a more inclusive vision for how we can move issues forward, um, and include things like violence against women, economic injustices, environmental injustices. Um, so I think reproductive justice is incredibly important as a movement because it's centering, the whole person is going beyond, um, the issue of abortion or contraception or whatever the case may be and is really thinking about reproductive oppression as the center of our work and how we, how we change that.

Jennie Wetter: Well, cause I mean honestly it's not about abortion or access to contraception. It's about misogyny and like the way to try and control women's bodies. And these are the tools that they are using, right? So trying to address it piecemeal and saying we need to fight about abortion and make sure women have access and not addressing the bigger social construct that is causing this. It's so hard to make any progress.

Jessica Pickney: No, absolutely. And you know, even just sitting here thinking about it, I'm like, in some ways it is about choice. It's the choice to be able to, to parent or not parent the choice to be able to put food on the table for your family. Like those are choices, right? Like they're not given rights. They're not assumed rights for a lot of folks. Um, you do make a choice between whether you can put food on the on the table for your family or pay for the bus to get to work tomorrow. Like those are real life choices for folks. Um, and so I think it is important to go beyond abortion, contraception, access. Those are important aspects, particularly, um, for folks who are living at the margins. But it's so much bigger than that. And I think for a lot of folks, I mean, I know when we do our polling or have conversations with, with black women, other women of color, it's like they can't even think about taking care of themselves and their health care or their lack of access to health care because there's 90 other issues they have to address before they could even get to contraceptive access or, or think about having an abortion.

Jennie Wetter: Okay. So we were just talking about how it's so much more. Um, and you know, I think that really gets into, we were talking a little bit about, you know, it's not just about contraception, so it's about reproductive oppression. Do you want to go into that a little bit?

Jessica Pickney: For sure. Um, reproductive oppression is the control and exploitation of women, girls, individuals through our bodies, our sexuality, our labor, our reproduction. And I think to the point you were just making it, it's a control issue, right? And it's, we see it show up today very differently than it did in previous generations. Um, the first example I always give every productive oppression is African women in slavery who experienced a innumerous offenses and abuses on their reproductive rights and bodies and families from to being used for experiments, et cetera. Harriet Jacobs wrote a narrative, um, which was among the first written pieces to detail the harassment and abuse she endured as a slave woman. And then in the early 19 hundreds, you see states passing laws to sterilize, um, people who are deemed inferior or unfit, which of course is always women of color. Um, LGBTQ folks, folks with disabilities, so on and so forth. There's a story of a young woman who became pregnant at the age of 14, after being raped by a man from her neighborhood. The eugenics board made up of five white men concluded she was feebleminded and doomed to promiscuity, made her grandmother consent to her being sterilized.

Jennie Wetter: It's one of those things that's horrifying and but not surprising cause you know that stories like that happened, but it make it any less horrific whenever you actually hear one. Jessica Pickney: Yeah, exactly. And it's like there... So I think the stories of the past are, are like far more damning in some ways. Um, but then the stories of the present are sneakier and colder in some ways.

Jennie Wetter: Well, some of the sterilization stuff. Yeah. Not that far, right? It's not history. Yeah.

Jessica Pickney: It's not at all. It's not at all. Um, so in the early two thousands, we see a lot of states starting to criminalize, uh, women who use drugs while pregnant. Instead of thinking about, again, the intersections of individual's lives and the, the reason that they've landed in such a situation or thinking about reproductive, I mean, uh, restorative justice opportunities. Uh, we see parental notification and consent laws that restrict abortion access to the individuals under the age of 18. We see really rigorous, uh, judicial bypass issues that...

Jennie Wetter: Some of them are so complicated. Like I would have a hard time following them. Yes. We have not talked a lot about parental consent and judicial bypass. We'll have to do an episode that digs deep into that because some of the judicial bypasses are wild.

Jessica Pickney: It's just absurd. And yeah, I mean, I don't think you should put anyone through that, particularly a young person. Young people are having abortions for a variety of reasons and we just need to trust all individuals to make decisions for themselves. And then, you know, today, earlier this week we saw a 20 week abortion ban hearing, um, in the United States Senate we see criminal charges for home births. Um, which I think Preston talked a little bit about on the podcast recently. We see religious refusals regarding birth control and still coerced and forced sterilization. Yeah. Um, particularly of of black women and women of color. There's, um, a case, I think it's Mississippi, um, where they were offering the judges were offering a women shortened sentences.

Jennie Wetter: Oh, I was just gonna say, I can't remember where it happened though.

Jessica Pickney: I think it's Mississippi. I want to say it. I mean my doesn't feel wrong. It might be Kentucky. I'll have to double check. But essentially, yeah, essentially judges were offering women shortened sentences and exchange first sterilization, um, which is absolutely coercion.

Jennie Wetter: It's just, it boggles my mind. Like, who comes up with this? Like, I don't know. Why do you think this is a good idea? And what?

Jessica Pickney: I know it's appalling. It's offensive. It's just, it's disturbing on so many levels. Um, and I mean, I think honestly, we as a society have gotten better at acknowledging some of these abortion bans and coercion and sterilization issues as a mechanisms of reproductive oppression. But then there are some that I think we're still really trying to lift up, uh, work requirements under Medicaid. We've been doing a lot of work in partnership with National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum to lift up Medicaid as a reproductive justice issue because when you're implementing work requirement's and um, the Medicaid program through Medicaid waivers, um, you're essentially trying to control an aspect of an individual's life by forcing them to work when many, most people who are on Medicaid are working if they can work, um, it's unnecessary.

Jennie Wetter: It's tigmatizing it.

Jessica Pickney: It's absolutely stigmatizing. It's unnecessary. It's offensive. Obviously we talk about the Hyde amendment having limiting access to just quality reproductive health care education through Title X. Um, there are just a variety of ways that reproductive oppression still exists.

Jennie Wetter: And you're right, we've gotten better at identifying some of them, but they've also, the other side has also gotten better at making them sound reasonable. And like no big deal. Like, yeah, these clinics should absolutely be regulated as ambulatory surgical centers. Like, yeah, that makes perfect sense. And like on its face, you're like, I mean, yeah, no, that sounds perfect, but if you like dig into it, it's not that it's just trying to close clinics, right? It's...

Jessica Pickney: Right. And I think that actually brings up a really important piece of reproductive justice around breaking down stigma because the reason they can get away with saying, oh we need an ambulatory surgical center is because people still think of abortion as a scary surgical procedure versus it being an aspect of reproductive health care. So I try really hard and all of my talking points and whenever communicating about abortion to always say abortion care because it is an aspect of health care. Absolutely. Um, but the stigma goes far beyond abortion, right? Like we're stigmatizing folks who are on Medicaid, we're stigmatizing folks who SNAP on snap who access food stamps, who are part of the, the legal immigration system where stigmatizing folks who are undocumented.

Jennie Wetter: Stigmatizing asylum seekers. Yeah. I mean who are leaving desperate situations looking for a better life. Right. We're making them sound like criminals.

Jessica Pickney: Right, exactly. And I just think it, you know, the, the work to break down stigma in the reproductive justice movement is so connected to this human rights framework around treating individuals as just that and recognizing that everyone's lived experiences are different and we don't have to judge, we don't have to understand them. We also don't have to judge them. Um, but yeah, we need to give all individuals full access, full choice and the ability to live their lives the way that suits them best. Um, and that is free from harm and insecurity and stigma and so on and so forth.

Jennie Wetter: So I always like to end the podcast with what can people do to fight back, although that doesn't necessarily seem like maybe something for this episode. Um, so maybe we'll talk about how do you take RJ and make it a strategy? Like how, how do, how do we do that? How do, how, what can people do?

Jessica Pickney: Well, reproductive justice can only be achieved when all women and girls, and I always add fems have the complete economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, our communities in all aspects of our lives. So I think the biggest thing around reproductive justice strategy is supporting centering the leadership and power of women of color, the most excluded or marginalized folks. And in any environment, building a network. I think the reproductive justice movement is a really strong network of individuals who all have or organizations that all have different focuses and priorities. Um, we've created a lot of space for ourselves and each other and we really hold that up, um, as important to the movement. And then I think integrating other movements and issues into our work. Uh, I don't think any reproductive justice organization or individual would claim to be the expert on environmental issues or, or paid leave or economic justice issues. But we really try to, um, lift up the intersections of people's lives and, um, hold space for other important movements that are, are moving the needle, um, in a way that will impact our movement as well.

Jennie Wetter: Great, well Jessica, thank you so much for being here today. This was, I think was a really important and great conversation.

Jessica Pickney: Thank you so much for having me.

Jennie Wetter: For more information, including show notes from this episode and previous episodes, please visit our website You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at rePROs Fight Back. If you like our show, please help others find it by sharing it with your friends and subscribing, rating and reviewing us on iTunes. Thanks for listening.