31 Reproductive Health

Joanna Le

Whether it is our physical, mental, or emotional well-being, we all have many complexities to our own sense of our health. However, dependent on our social determinants, we all experience health and illness differently. Our gender, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, environment, and more play a crucial role in how we experience good health and conversely, illness and poor health. Many health inequalities are not due to “natural” genetic or other biological variations, but are the consequences of systemic discrimination. For example, racism and colonial policies, sexism, and ageism spur privilege and oppression in healthcare systems."A picture of a baby in a baby chair on top of a kitchen counter. Garlic, a banana, a melon, green dishes, and baskets are also on the counter."

When we have an intersectional perspective, such as how gender, race, income, housing, or ability work together to affect an individual’s health, we can begin to understand the disadvantage of having intersecting marginalized identities. People who are white, abled bodied, heterosexual, and economically secure receive better care than their marginalized counterparts. All of this affects reproductive health. For example, Black women in Canada have higher rates of premature births than white women. Researchers have established that the historic, contemporary, compounding stress of systemic marginalization along race and gender lines, as well as poorer healthcare treatment and access, are to blame.[1] Additionally, Indigenous women have been a target of reproductive violence, such as forced sterilization or IUD (intrauterine device) insertions at a young age.[2] When it comes to women’s reproductive rights, there is a social stigma surrounding abortion, and unequal provision of services across Canada. In debates such as “pro-life versus pro-choice,” we can see that reproduction is a key site for social struggle. Social injustice actualizes in diminished reproductive health for women, and racialized women in particular. It is true that in Canada and elsewhere, women’s rights to bodily autonomy are constantly under scrutiny and threat.

It is also important to highlight that it is not only cisgender women that can become pregnant. Trans men and nonbinary people can also experience pregnancy. People of all sexes and genders deserve the social, economic, and political conditions that promote their reproductive health.”

Reproductive violence:
injurious actions that attempt to control other people’s reproductive capacities
Reproductive rights: the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy in deciding matters of reproduction, such as if/when to have children

  1. Martis, E. (2020, June 4). Why Black Women Fear for Their Lives in The Delivery Room. HuffPost Canada. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/black-maternal-health-canada_ca_5ed90ae3c5b685164f2eab93.
  2. Stettner, S. (2016). Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada. https://courses.kpu.ca/pluginfile.php/ 178860992/mod_resource/content/1/Stettner_ 2016-Without _ Apology.pdf


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Gender in Canada: A Companion Workbook Copyright © 2023 by Joanna Le is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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