Reproductive Justice

As Unitarian Universalists, we are the inheritors of a 50-year history of reproductive rights. We also share a strong commitment to racial and social justice that is fundamental to our theology and modern identity.  At the convergence of these interests, we UUs are called to answer the political debate on reproductive rights.  If we are to succeed as reproductive justice advocates in our communities and in the larger world, UUs must be comfortable with our individual and collective identities, and we must be partners with others in the push for reproductive justice.

Allow me to share with you some words from the UUA statement of Conscience on Reproductive Justice.

(From 2015 Statement of Conscience)

As Unitarian Universalists, we embrace the reproductive justice framework, which espouses the human right to have children, not to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and to safeguard bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely.

What gave birth to the Reproductive Justice movement?

The reproductive justice movement was founded at a time when the unique range of issues faced by women of color were not addressed by the predominantly white middle class women’s rights and reproductive rights movements nor by the predominantly male civil rights movement.  The issuesed by women of color are forced sterilization, forced contraception, and higher rates of removal of children from families due to accusations of abuse or neglect.  These issues, coupled with systemic racism, have frequently made parenting or co-parenting more difficult due to many factors, including but not limited to, discriminatory and unequal implementation of laws and incarceration rates, prohibitions imposed on people after incarceration, unjust immigration policies, and economic insecurity.

The term Reproductive Justice focuses on the experience of the most vulnerable women and is designed  to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements.  The reproductive justice framework represents a shift from the more narrow focus of women advocating for control of their bodies to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints placed on women.  Reproductive justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically that imposed on women of color.  As Unitarian Universalists we declare that all people have the right to self-expression with regard to gender and sexuality and the right to live free from sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and sexual and reproductive exploitation.

It is important to note that the reproductive justice movement focused on the social inequalities that shape the lives of marginalized women. It had the intent of working against reproductive oppression, that is, opposing the exploitation of women, girls, and others through their reproduction, labor, and sexuality.

What are the goals of Reproductive Justice?

  1. the raising of children in safe and healthy environments
  2. planned and healthy pregnancies
  3. ending or avoidance of unwanted pregnancies
  4. expression of sexuality

What makes Reproductive Justice so powerful as a concept?

Notably, reproductive justice is not simply a different phrase that is interchangeable with reproductive health or reproductive rights, nor is it intended to replace those concepts.  Instead, reproductive justice is a framework that combines the fields of reproductive rights, social justice, and human rights.  It is grounded in the particular experiences, values, priorities, and leadership of women of color.

Reproductive justice works to address the myriad issues facing women and men in the context of their reproductive lives.  The achievement of reproductive justice requires a paradigm shift in consciousness for many people and a radical transformation of society.

The reproductive justice movement envisions the liberation of people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, gender identities, ages, classes, and cultural and racial identities.  What will it take for Reproductive Justice to be successful? Accurate information about sexuality and reproduction, control of personal reproductive decisions, and comprehensive medical and reproductive health care, and the absence of individual and institutional violence.

Our UU faith tradition has a long history of progressive witness for freedom and justice.  Soon after the merger of Universalism and Unitarianism, the new Association (1961) adopted statements in support of civil rights and the rights of women.  In time, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations added advocacy for those facing oppression based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.   We have offered sexuality education across the lifespan within our congregations, and have advocated for these beliefs in the public sphere.

Reproductive Justice is simply a next step in our development as a religious organization.  The UUA is committed to being a leader in this movement.

What will this look like?  Unitarian Universalists commit to follow the lead of, act in solidarity with, and be accountable to communities of color and other marginalized groups, using our positions of power to support the priorities of those communities. Both those affected and their allies play important roles. Unitarian Universalists are laying the groundwork for the transformative power of multicultural organizing in partnership with reproductive justice organizations and leaders.  We envision leadership from those most affected.  We will use our position to speak loudly in the religious arena, since we know that the religious voice has often been used to limit access to reproductive justice.

The UUA has put together a long list of actions we can take both as individuals and as an organization in order to promote reproductive justice.  Copies of the list are available in the lobby.  I urge you to take one and decide what you might do for this important movement.

With open minds, helping hands, and loving hearts, we must work toward reproductive justice, and we should commit to replacing insecurity with safety, fear with acceptance, judgment with love, and shame with compassion.  May it be so.