32 Reproductive Justice

Rebecca Yoshizawa

Image of yellow light bulb, next to the words "insights to think about"“Rights” are legal entitlements of individuals within societies. Reproductive rights are the rights that individuals have concerning reproduction, such as bodily autonomy and self-determination, actualized in broader social phenomena such as in the legal importance of consent for sexual activity and abortion rights. Feminists argue that women deserve the basic human rights of bodily autonomy and self-determination when it comes to reproduction. However, some feminists have argued that the concept of rights is not enough to address social injustices related to reproduction and have advanced the notion of reproductive justice, combining social justice and reproductive rights. The concept is meant to shift our thinking to the multiple social inequalities that affect reproduction. Many social issues are issues of reproductive justice. For instance, while housing insecurity is an issue of economic inequality, it is also one of reproductive justice because everyone should enjoy the right to raise children in safe homes. In many places, those with fertility challenges must pay out-of-pocket for fertility treatments. While people may have the equal “right” to pay like anyone else, they may not equally have the ability to do so. This means that reproduction becomes a site of economic privilege and oppression, which the notion of “individual rights” cannot adequately address. When we understand the systemic nature of oppression, we see how the futurity of whole communities is affected by reproductive injustice.

When a reproductive justice perspective is taken, the “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” debate about abortion is revealed as limited. “Rights” are usually enjoyed by individuals, so the debate pits “fetal rights” against “maternal rights.” But pregnant people are bodies in community: an embodied relationship that is greater than one, but less than two. Likewise, paternal interests figure in a pregnancy.

Reproductive justice: a concept that combines social justice with reproductive rights
Bodily autonomy: the right to independently govern one’s own body
Self-determination: the right to choose the course of one’s own life
Futurity: describing the possibility of continued existence into the future



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

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