Skip to content
From Legacy to Liberation: Reproductive Justice in Black History Month

From Legacy to Liberation: Reproductive Justice in Black History Month

During Black History Month, we reflect on the legacy of Reproductive Justice, a testament to the perseverance and resistance of Black women throughout history. The emergence of the Reproductive Justice movement was a critique of the narrow framing of the reproductive rights movement, particularly the absence of Black women’s experiences. As evidenced in the Combahee River Collective Statement, it is “difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously.” By centering the voices and lives of Black women, we can effectively challenge systemic oppression by advocating for our reproductive rights and racial justice through an intersectional lens.

The Reproductive Justice framework was coined by Black women activists in a 1994 meeting to directly address their frustrations surrounding the reproductive rights movement. They knew what was being done was nowhere near sufficient to meet the realities of Black women across the nation. Their activism wasn’t confined to that meeting room; it reverberated through grassroots initiatives and national advocacy efforts. From organizing local community workshops to spearheading nationwide campaigns, Black women have always been at the forefront, driving change through collective action.

IOOV partner, Women With A Vision (WWAV), an organization deeply rooted in the New Orleans community since 1989, exemplifies the principles of the Reproductive Justice movement by addressing the social conditions impacting the city’s most marginalized population through direct aid and advocacy. WWAV represents just one of many Black women-led organizations fighting for the well-being of Black women and gender-expansive individuals in their community and across the country.

Barriers continue to persist for Black women and other marginalized communities in accessing reproductive healthcare, including discriminatory policies, resource limitations, and enduring stigma. Black women experience disproportionately steep increases in maternal mortality rates as well as disparities in access to contraception, family planning services, and comprehensive reproductive healthcare. We can not allow politicians to ignore these pressing issues as they have for generations. While they pick and choose who deserves rights, we as Black women know there is no time to waste, as we continue to experience negative consequences the harshest. 

As we honor the legacy of Reproductive Justice in tandem with Black History, we must recommit ourselves to action. We can not only celebrate past victories but also actively work to dismantle systems of oppression in the present day. This involves supporting grassroots organizations, advocating for policy change, challenging stigma, and continuing to educate ourselves and our communities. Together, we can build a future where every individual has the right to make decisions about their own body, free from discrimination.

Back To Top