What’s the difference between reproductive health and reproductive rights? And what is reproductive justice? We hear these questions off and on, and maybe you’ve wondered yourself!
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Organizations and individuals in the “repro” movement work within one or more of these frameworks. We thought we’d share a few basic definitions and resources to help clarify these closely aligned, yet slightly different approaches:
This refers to the direct provision of healthcare services related to people’s reproductive needs, like contraception, STI testing and treatment, mammograms and other cancer diagnostic tests, and ob-gyn care. Abortion care is considered reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood is an example of an organization that provides reproductive health care, along with many local public and private health clinics and physicians. Some, but not all, providers of reproductive health care also advocate for reproductive rights.
Reproductive Rights are simply the rights and freedoms related to reproduction and reproductive health, which are controlled explicitly by laws that vary by country or state. Examples of reproductive rights include the right to legal and safe abortion, the right to birth control, freedom from coerced sterilization, access to reproductive healthcare, and the right to sex education. NARAL Pro-Choice America, founded in 1969, champions the idea that “Freedom is for every body.” They work “from the state house to the White House” advocating for legislatures and any other government body to support the autonomy and dignity of the individual human life and body. One’s body is one’s own. Others, especially a government, should not control a person and their body.
Historically, U.S. movements for reproductive health and rights have centered the needs of white, mostly middle-class women, especially in the fight for abortion access. Even though Black women and women of color have solidly supported these efforts, their contributions and needs are often sidelined, minimized, or erased from the narrative altogether.
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines Reproductive Justice 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.” SisterSong formed in 1997 in the early days of the Reproductive Justice Movement.
Reproductive justice (RJ) is a movement created by, led by, and centering women of color. Developed in 1994 and grounded in the human rights framework, RJ elevates the needs and voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, over and against the prevalence of historically white-led women’s rights movements.
RJ encompasses reproductive health and reproductive rights, while also addressing the social, political, and economic systemic inequalities that affect women’s reproductive health and their ability to control their reproductive lives.