Reproductive Justice (RJ) means the human right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction. That right can only be achieved when all women and girls have the complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives.
At the core of Reproductive Justice is the belief that all women have
- the right to have children;
- the right to not have children and;
- the right to nurture the children we have in a safe and healthy environment.
In 1994, having participated in the International Conference on Population & Development (ICPD) in Cairo and a number of national conferences in the United States, a group of Black women gathered in Chicago in a moment that would launch a new activist’s Reproductive Justice movement for women. Sharing frustration about the global reproductive health status of Black women and the limitations of a privacy-based “pro-choice” movement when women of color had minimal choices, the Black Women’s Caucus of the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance determined the necessity of adopting a human rights framework for women of color and low income women that addressed issues of bodily autonomy with reproductive decision-making.
Adopting human rights, social justice and reproductive rights tenets, these women created a transformational and grassroots-based movement for social change. With the definitions and concepts of Reproductive Justice in place, the Black Women’s Caucus sought affirmation and support from the cadre of women of color working domestically on reproductive health and rights.
Using this RJ framework, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda focuses on three key policy issues: abortion rights and access, contraceptive equity and comprehensive sex education. As a Reproductive Justice initiative, we approach these issues from a human rights perspective, incorporating the intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation and gender identity with the situational impacts of economics, politics and culture that make up the lived experiences of Black women in this country.
We approach our work with four main goals:
- To establish a leadership voice for Black women on reproductive rights, health and justice policy at the national level;
- To build a coordinated grassroots movement of Black women in support of abortion rights and access, including ending the onerous funding restrictions, contraceptive equity and comprehensive sex education;
- To lay the foundation for ongoing policy change at the national and state levels that impacts the lives and wellbeing of Black women and their families; and
- To engage and motivate Black women as the most progressive voting block in the American electorate.