History of Reproductive Justice

In 1994, a group of Black women who named themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice first coined the term “Reproductive Justice” in recognition of the ways in which the mainstream reproductive rights movement did not represent women of color’s lived experiences and needs.¹ Instead, the Reproductive Justice movement centers the most marginalized.²

Reproductive Justice is a human rights framework used to address and dismantle the many systemic barriers that affect people’s ability to make decisions regarding their bodies, families, and communities. The Reproductive Justice framework is rooted in three main principles. It is an individual’s right to:

  1. have a child, and decide the conditions in which to give birth;
  2. not have a child, including access to all options for ending or preventing pregnancy while being treated with dignity;
  3. and parent the children they have in safe, supportive communities free from violence and oppression.³

Reproductive Justice and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Communities

We believe that Reproductive Justice for AAPI women and girls will be achieved when we have the economic, social, and political power to make decisions about our bodies, families, and communities.

A Reproductive Justice framework recognizes the intersecting identities of AAPI women and girls including ethnicity, immigration status, education, sexual orientation, gender identity, and dis/ability when addressing our social, economic, and health care needs. For example, a Burmese woman who makes 50 cents to every dollar a white man makes has a sick child, but her workplace does not provide paid family leave. A Korean woman who earns low wages needs access to Medicaid to pay for her birth control, but due to her immigration status, she must wait five years for affordable contraception. A young AAPI person growing up in a culture where sexual and reproductive health is a taboo topic needs comprehensive sex education in their school, not the shaming and oppressive abstinence-based programs they receive in health class.

In the road to achieving Reproductive Justice, securing rights in health care, immigration, and economic justice is not enough: we must address the varying layers of intersecting identities that affect AAPI women’s ability to have full agency over our lives.

  1. SisterSong, “Reproductive Justice” (2017), http://sistersong.net/reproductive-justice (last visited July 16, 2019)
  2. Ibid.
  3. If/When/How, “What is reproductive justice?” (2019), https://www.ifwhenhow.org/about/what-is-rj/ (last visited August 23, 2019).