Editor’s Note: Over the next three weeks, we will be sharing with you a series of articles on Reproductive Justice, written by Americans United for Life in March of 2010. They have kindly granted us permission to reprint here.
Americans United for Life is committed to the principle of reproductive justice. If that seems strange from a pro-life perspective, it is because the abortion lobby has usurped the phrase “reproductive justice” to mean its antithesis.
The National Organization of Women (NOW) defines “reproductive justice” as the recognition “that reproductive oppression is a result of the intersection of multiple oppressions and is inherently connected to the struggle for social justice and human rights. Women of low economic means suffer consequences from the lack of access to complete health care (for example, the high rate of cervical cancers among women of color).”
One does not have to dig deep to find NOW’s definition of “complete health care” is not limited to cancer screenings but includes, and largely focuses on, abortion.
Sister Song, another organization claiming to advance “reproductive justice,” adds, “For [reproductive justice] to become reality, we need to make change on the individual, family, community, and institutional levels to end all forms of oppression, including forces that deprive us of self-determination and control over our bodies, and limit our reproductive choices.” The translation, again, is that abortion is central to reproductive justice.
Yet, the inclusion of abortion does not merely misunderstand reproductive justice, it undermines it. Early feminists made that point repeatedly.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader in the fight for women’s equality, noted abortion was in direct contradiction to the feminist cause, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
They understood that a liberated woman was not one free to choose abortion, but a woman free from abortion. The first female presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull, emphasized this point in 1875, “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for-child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.”
Alice Paul, author of the first Equal Rights Amendment, stated it succinctly, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
Somehow in the last century we went from near universal agreement among women’s rights leaders that women are the victim of the abortion industry, to modern day where so-called “women’s rights” groups claim the abortion industry is our salvation. Women are now oppressed under a faulty promise of freedom. Feminism loses credibility when it is sold as costing others lives. Real reproductive justice is not just put on hold, but damaged when its meaning is perverted.
Enough is enough. This March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Americans United for Life is taking the phrase “reproductive justice” back from the abortion lobby and restoring its rightful meaning. Real reproductive justice is pro-woman, not pro-abortion. It’s a cause, and a phrase, worth fighting for.