Thirty-eight years after Roe v. Wade, the U.S. pro-choice movement finds women’s rights to contraception and abortion threatened by the conservative shift of the nation. Meanwhile, young women of color (in particular) are disproportionately affected by cuts to Medicaid, dangerous contraceptives, welfare reform, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and more.
These issues intersect with the other forms of violence we address, in several ways. Recent studies have drawn attention, for example, to the prevalence of reproductive coercion among young people – a form of abuse in which young women are denied access to contraceptives. In fact, studies show that girls who experience dating violence are 4 to 6 times more likely than non-abused girls to become pregnant (for a summary of recent data, see “Reproductive Health & Violence” on the Family Violence Prevention Fund website). In addition to leading to unwanted pregnancies for young women, the denial of condoms puts young women at significant health risks. It is incumbent upon us, then, to address these issues as we set out to tackle issues of violence against young women.
Because the experiences of young and older women of color have traditionally been marginal to the reproductive rights movement, organizations such as Sistersong in Georgia have advanced a new more holistic framework for discussing these issues called Reproductive Justice (RJ). RJ calls for the “complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women, girls, and individuals, based on the full achievement and protection of human rights.”
In the fall of 2006, after attending a workshop by SisterSong in Wisconsin, members of the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT) were inspired to articulate their framework for understanding the concept of reproductive justice. This explanatory construct takes into account the broad meaning of reproductive freedom and choice as understood by a group of young women of color in Chicago, working to address violence.
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE – What it means to us (Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team 2006)
|Ability to decide NOT to have sex||Ability to raise our children
|Access to birth control and the technologies that prevent disease|
|Ability to decide to have sex SAFELY||Safety of our bodies (eradication of sexual, physical and emotional violence)||Access to information about our body (how it works; what it needs to be healthy)
|No exposure to environmental toxins that pollute our bodies||Access to healthcare
|No exposure to dangerous contraceptives||Access to abortion|
The Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women heard from local organizations during our roundtable discussions that adopting a Reproductive Justice framework allowed for coalition-building and for better addressing young women’s lived realities. We encourage you to read the innovative models section in order to understand the breadth and depth of approaches favored by Chicago organizations that are addressing reproductive justice issues.