Reclaiming Reproductive Justice.

6 Apr

No, right-wingers, real reproductive justice is not something those working hard to limit the choices and freedom of women are allowed to define! For those who are scratching your heads a bit at my opening assertion, I kind of envy you a little. You see, you may not be aware of this, but members of the anti-choice movement are out to try and co-opt, and perhaps what is worse, define, terminology that was coined and used to define a position in complete contrast to their own. Below is an excerpt from one such source, who have tried on a couple of recent ocassions to use the term Reproductive Justice in an anti-choice context.

Warning – the following statement could cause those whose brain logic centers are functioning properly to repeatedly face-palm upon reading. Just remember to breathe. This feeling shall pass.

Real reproductive justice affirms the woman in the fullness of her vocation as a woman. It encourages the woman in her sacrifices and safeguards her overall wellbeing. A woman’s irreplaceable qualities, as well as her unique ability to give and nurture new life, must not be sacrificed for the demands of the work place; rather, society and the work place must support the woman in her every role. Regrettably, many attending the CSW failed to promote real reproductive justice. The CSW, under the pretext of empowering the woman and improving her life, primarily focused on resolutions that undermine her inherent dignity.

To quote from The Guild, or rather paraphrase, there is so much fail in that statement I do not know where to begin. Now to understand the position of the poster, you have to understand that they believe access to abortion undermines a woman’s inherent dignity. Believing and putting forth the idea that women who are allowed to have full control over their reproductive freedom and choices are not worthy of being respected or honored. And rather than looking at why society or even they themselves would ascribe to such a fallacious position, they feel their efforts are better suited trying to define our language.

This is not a surprising move, this fight has long been one of loaded language, so trying to co-opt our terminology is somewhat of a logical step (so you can see where our confusion has come from). But like most of the anti-choice tactics, they do not understand what they are doing, so they march forward in an ignorant state of belligerent grace, insulting so many as they go. Not only because they refuse to acknowledge the truths they propagandedly seek to distort, but because they are using a term that they seem to know nothing about.

Reproductive Justice – A historical perspective

I recently read an amazing article about the history of the Reproductive Justice Movement on Safer Campus which gave me some much needed insight into the term, and the brilliant women who battled under its banner. Below are a few select excerpts from the post that will help shine light on just why the Anti-Choice movement’s attempt to steal this term is not only beyond misguided, but it is offensive to those who bravely fought to make this idea, and its original principles, a reality.

…the Reproductive Justice movement as one originated by women of color, led by women of color, and designed by women of color in part to respond to the ways the pro-choice movement has historically most closely addressed the needs of white middle-class women.

Given that the movement was started by women of color, its empowered message tied to the terms used to defined their position, the theft of this language is beyond wrong, as I mentioned before, it is insulting!

Reproductive Justice is a term coined in 1994 by women of color at the Cairo conference (officially the International Conference on Population and Development), some of whom went on to use that term later that year for an ad campaign by “Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice” that called for the Clinton Administration to honor its promises from Cairo in terms of its new health care plan. Three years later some of these women and many others founded SisterSong as a collective network of women of color organizations, and they have subsequently been the leaders in promoting the idea of Reproductive Justice.

When a term is defined and used by a group as their foundation, then it is no one else’s place to try and take that language away from them and use it in opposition to their cause. The right-wing seems to be a fan of ignoring the foundations and positions of those they steal from as long as it fits with their ends, remember the Horton Hears a Who travesty? Using the words of a pro-choice author on an anti-choice ad campaign against the will and wishes of the writer and those whom he left in charge of his estate…but I digress. However it does show a pattern of ignorant disrespect and a disconnect with any version of reality that conflicts with theirs.

The definition used by SisterSong (courtesy of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice) sees reproductive justice as

the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives.

They also define reproductive justice as “(1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children we have, as well as to control our birthing options,” and to live in conditions that allow these rights to be exercised.

That pretty much says it all. Given that the terms’ roots are based in the fight for allowing women the freedom to make all of their reproductive choices, trying to co-opt it just shows the right’s desperate and disrespectful approach to the pro-choice movement’s attempts to start a reasonable dialog based in fact and not fiction. Based on logic and not emotion. And in my eyes anyway, trying to steal the language of the opposition is the truer act that undermines the dignity of your movement, not the acts that seek true reproductive freedom and choice for each and every woman.

And yes, Antis, I understand that this has long been a fight where the language has played a huge divisive part in establishing any sort of meaningful dialog, which is why your attempts to take our emotionally un-antagonistic language and make it emotionally charged through its mis-use, is both tired and sad. Perhaps you should just stick to your own terms. Because afterall, context is important. And when you coin a term, you get to establish its definitions and context. So stop stealing ours. Thanks.

2 Responses to “Reclaiming Reproductive Justice.”

  1. WeCanChangeIt April 7, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Absolutely. I like to look at this and think that they are seriously losing ground here. The antis are trying desperately to confuse the issue by putting on escort vests, opening up crisis pregnancy centers that masquerade as option-encouraging clinics, and taking terms like “reproductive justice” and reclaiming it with vitriol and hatred. I think they are starting to realize that they are not getting to as many people with their arguments anymore, so now they’re just trying to confuse people into being anti-choice.

  2. Rob Bowen April 8, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    Thanks for the comment. I also see it as a sign of desperation, and maybe a little bit lazy. Or it could be just an example of the distorted reality they inhabit where whatever they say is true, just, and theirs….no matter who said it first.

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