What is Repro Justice?

By Cessilye Smith

Well, let’s look at the word “justice”.  Merriam-Webster defines justice as “being just, impartial, or fair”. But what is fair? Many will say that bodily autonomy is fair. I mean, for far too long womxn have not had rights to their own bodies...so bodily autonomy sounds about right, don’t ya think? Many believe that the ability to live where we live is fair. We have a choice, I mean, like Childish Gambino said, “this is America, this is America”. The land of the free, the home of the brave. “I worked for what I have”. Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed “so pick yourself up by your bootstraps”.

 “This is America, this is America.

Yes…..it is.

We often stand with our hand over our hearts proudly singing the national anthem and pledging allegiance to a flag that does not represent the beautiful diversity that this country holds. In that pledge it says “justice for all”.

So here we are, trying to reconcile the contradictory words of the past and unpack what it truly means to be just, impartial, or fair.

Reproductive Justice to me looks like taking an active approach at dismantling systems that were built to oppress certain people. It’s not only about reproduction, it’s layered and complex. At the bottom of those complexities lies our humanity.

“Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women” - Michelle Obama

 Let me paint a picture for you...

 It’s not pretty but hopefully it will reveal the complexities that exist today.

Reproductive justice looks like considering the systems that impact womxn. Systems that do not support womxn. Systems that essentially kill womxn and their children. Ask yourself, do womxn only fear death when bringing life into the world? Or when the stress of racism causes hypertension and preterm birth? Is it just when implicit biases influence the standard of healthcare womxn receive or how racial biases literally send womxn to their death beds? Is it just when black womxn have either been forced to breed or been unwillingly and unknowingly sterilized without their consent? Is it just when ghettos were created for specific people to live in, creating generational poverty and all of the mess that comes with that.  Is it just when womxn fear having children because of the criminalization of the black body? How about when there is  a major lack of access to healthy foods in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy….is that just? And is it fair to shame womxn when they feel they are between a rock and a hard place when faced with the decision to terminate a pregnancy?

BTW, That rock? Injustice. And the hard place? Injustice….

Something packaged with a bow and delivered to a multitude of womxn.

I could go on.

Reproductive Justice to me requires a consistent life ethic. An ethic that values every member of the human species from womb to tomb. RJ makes us take a step back and say no to how things were and how things are and commit to dismantling systems that oppress members of the human species now.. Reproductive justice means steering away from language and actions that dehumanize others. But first, justice requires listening. If we can’t listen, we can’t understand, and if we can’t understand it makes it 1,000x harder to break down the walls of oppression and build bridges of restoration.

Cessilye Smith is a Co-founder of Abide Women’s Health Services and often speaks on social issues with a consistent life ethic lens on her public page.