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What is Reproductive Justice?

What is Reproductive Justice (RJ)?

Reproductive justice brings reproductive rights and social justice together to fight for a future where we are able to freely make decisions for ourselves and our families. Learn more about its origins and what is the RJ framework.

The origins of the term “reproductive justice” 

In 1994, the term “reproductive justice” was coined by the Black Women’s Caucus at a national pro-choice conference. According to Loretta Ross, founder of SisterSong, and co-founder of the reproductive justice movement, “We were dissatisfied with the pro-choice language feeling that it did not accurately encompass our twinned goals: To protect the right to have and not have children. Nor did the language of choice accurately portray the many barriers African America women faced when trying to make reproductive decisions. Perhaps because we were just returning from the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, we began exploring the use of the human rights framework in our Reproductive Rights activism in the U.S. as many grassroots activists do globally. We sought a way to partner Reproductive Rights to social justice and came up with the term ‘Reproductive Justice’.”

The Founding Mothers of Reproductive Justice

We are so grateful for the group of visionary Black women who developed the reproductive justice framework and we honor them by adopting their framework in the work we do every day. The founding mothers of reproductive justice are:

  • Toni M. Bond Leonard
  • Reverend Alma Crawford
  • Evelyn S. Field
  • Terri James
  • Bisola Marignay
  • Cassandra McConnell
  • Cynthia Newbille
  • Loretta Ross
  • Elizabeth Terry
  • ‘Able’ Mable Thomas
What is reproductive justice? The right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to raise your children. Everyone should have that. It’s not that hard to explain – it’s just hard as hell to achieve. Loretta Ross

The Reproductive Justice Framework

Unlike reproductive rights which focuses on abortion, the reproductive justice framework is much bigger and is about supporting people and their families. Reproductive justice centers those most marginalized by policies and systems that seek to limit our right to have children and raise families with dignity and self-determination in addition to the right to not have a family or have one child.

The 3 core tenets of reproductive justice are:

  • The right to have children
  • The right to not have children
  • The right to parent in safe and healthy environments

When we adopt the reproductive justice framework we are asking “What are all the things in a person’s life that impact their ability to create the families they want?” We believe that we should live a world where those barriers do not exist – where people could make decisions about their families, about whether or when to have children, and that systemic problems such as poverty do not exist and that our human rights are guaranteed such as the right to healthcare, abortion access, and childcare.

Reproductive justice envisions a society where human rights are put into practice. Reproductive justice is a vision and framework for social justice organizing and advocacy characterized by intersectionality and inclusivity by centering people of color. Reproductive justice will be achieved only when all people have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make their own decisions about their bodies, health, sexuality, families, and reproduction.