Reproductive Justice Access Around the World
Reproductive Justice is a term coined recently in 1994, by a group of black feminists during a pro choice conference. Seeking to combine the words “reproductive rights” and “social justice”, the term “reproductive justice” was created to address both a woman’s right to choose and the various structures of oppression that uniquely target minority and lower income communities. The international community, whether it be the United Nations, international non profits, or country governments, has embraced this term to address an intersectional feminist perspective, to promote a culturally respectful and situation sensitive approach to reproductive health policy.
Research is now stronger than ever that sexual reproduction rights and family planning are absolutely essential not only for women’s empowerment, but for global empowerment in relation to economic, social, and political development. Unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and an overall lack of awareness of safe sexual health procedures are the leading causes of poverty in many nations. These causes impact developing nations disproportionately, with the “greatest needs for services concentrated in the poorest communities and poorest countries”. Thankfully, a solution is available. A simple investment in reproductive justice of $9 per person yields 3 million fewer unplanned births, 36 million fewer unplanned abortions, and 220,000 fewer maternal deaths in each country. The areas desperately in need of investment include funding for HIV and STD prevention, contraception, and family planning/abortion.
Although the media no longer actively covers the HIV crisis, every 5 minutes, an adolescent is diagnosed with HIV/AIDs. Furthermore, millions of people, both males and females, around the world are stigmatized and isolated because of easily preventable and treatable sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund and the International Rescue Committee have been actively working to combat both the stigma and presence of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. In some areas, they have experienced significant success such as in Kenya, where the provision of STD/STI medication has increased by 80 percent, but in other areas, communities still continue to be plagued with false myths and stereotypes that prevent affected people from accessing care.
Furthermore, an essential area that organizations have been focusing on to promote reproductive justice includes the provision of contraceptives. Although 78 countries around the world require parental consent for adolescents to access contraceptives, there has been a global trend to campaign for the easily accessible and confidential provision of contraceptives. Whether it be short term options such as monthly birth control pills or condoms, or long term options such as 10 year lasting intrauterine devices, 214 million people across the world are desperately seeking contraceptives. The World Health Organization has designed a series of reproductive health kits that contain essential contraceptives specifically designed for emergency situations, and other organizations are working to provide a variety of contraceptives and combat the religious and social oppositions facing the provision of them.
Although many women ideally wish to prevent pregnancy before it occurs, many women are faced with the reality of unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, the need for abortion procedures are high, especially in countries with strict anti-abortion laws. As Patricia Da Silva, Senior International Focus Officer at the IPFF states, “rich women abort, poor women die.” Access to abortions are increasingly regulated and sparse in poorer communities, and a multitude of other health problems arise when women in these communities seek alternative methods of abortion not offered by licensed medical professionals. Although internationally recognized NGOs cannot fund for abortion procedures in countries where abortion is outlawed, in countries with less stringent laws, organizations have been working to promote safe, confidential, and easy access to abortion services in a non judgmental environment.
The fight for reproductive justice is far from over, yet research and past advocacy experience from many different organizations have displayed a viable pathway to achieve reproductive justice. As in any conflict situation, education is key - and organizations continue to recommend education for all members of society, such as education for healthy couple communication, comprehensive sexual education, and education that encourages girls to stay and finish schooling. Both the public and private sector must come together to promote funding and research for healthy, safe family planning procedures. Most importantly, the fight for reproductive justice will be best won with the activism of all members of society, which starts with each individual becoming involved in grassroots activism, from being initially aware of the problem and subsequently, advocating for the solution.
Websites & Journals:
- Reproductive Justice, Not Just Rights." Dissent Magazine. N.p., Feb.-Mar. 2017. Web.
- Yancey-Bragg, N'dea. "Why World Population Day Is Really about Women." USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 13 June 2017. Web.
- United Nations. (2015). Sustainable Development Flagship Report. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/publications/global-sustainable-development-report-2015-edition.html
- UN Women annual report 2016. (2016). Retrieved from http://annualreport.unwomen.org/en/2016
- Adler, N. J. (1997). Global Leadership: Women Leaders. International Human Resource and Cross Cultural Management, 171-196.
- Index by the Fund for Peace -- Illustrations by Luke Shuman, & Interview by Benjamin Pauker, executive editor of Foreign Policy. (2014). Fragile States 2014 | Foreign Policy. Retrieved from http://foreignpolicy.com/fragile-states-2014/
- Kahn, Kim Fridkin. 1996. The Political Consequences of Being a Woman: How Stereotypes Influence the Conduct and Consequences of Political Campaigns. New York: Columbia University.
- Olsen, Erik. "Saving Lives With Family Planning." The New York Times. The New York Times, 3 Jan. 2017. Web.
- Worrell, Marc. "Who Are We?" Women on Waves. N.p., n.d. Web.
- Peter Mladenov, Moderator of UN Side Event: Using the 2030 Agenda to Tackle Sexual and Reproductive Coercion
- Patricia Da Silva, IPPF
- Dr. Felicity Day, Outright International
- Hayley Gleeson, ACT!2030
- Alanna Galati, Guttmacher Institute
- Lina Rojas, International Rescue Committee