Comparing Frameworks: What is Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice?

Cover Image for UUWF and UU Women and Religion's Webinar: What is Reproductive Justice?

For an interactive presentation on this material and the movement behind 'reproductive justice', check out "What is Reproductive Justice?" Slideshow and Webinar, done in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the UU Women's Federation, and UU Women and Religion

Many thanks to SisterSong, a UUA partner in reproductive justice, for delineating these basic frameworks.

What is Reproductive Health?
Focusing on the provision of services to individuals, 'reproductive health' is a resource-intensive approach to ending the lack of accessibility to health care research, services, and facilities. Particular attention is paid to expanding access to preventative care and culturally-competent services.
The framework of reproductive health is limited by the individualization of the delivery of services - it does not often take into account the structural inequalities among women that account for different levels of access to education and services. 'Reproductive health' does not address the root causes of social inequality.
What is Reproductive Rights/Choice?
The goal of the 'reproductive rights/choice' framework is the protection of a woman's legal rights to reproductive health care services, particularly abortion. Within the United States, the reproductive rights advocacy community organizes women and others to participate in legislative and electoral processes on the state and federal level, and targets policy makers, legal experts, and elected officials.
The legal basis for reproductive rights emerges from a protection of the privacy of women (Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court, 1973), which does not attest to the role of the government in eliminating social inequalities which impact health disparities and the 'choices' women make. Marginalized communities in the United States - such as immigrants, people of color, poor people, young people, and disabled people - often lack the faith, knowledge, or resources to request the political system to meet their needs.
What is Reproductive Justice?
Attendant to the social inequalities that shape the lives of marginalized women, the 'reproductive justice' framework was first created by women of color to work against 'reproductive oppression'—the exploitation of women, girls, and others through their reproduction, labor, and sexuality. Reproductive justice has four goals: (a) the raising of children in safe and healthy environments, (b) planned and healthy pregnancies, (c) ending or aversion of unwanted pregnancies, and (d) expression of sexuality. It works to address the myriad issues facing women in the context of their reproductive lives.
The achievement of reproductive justice requires a paradigm shift in consciousness for many people and radical transformation of society. As a long-term change strategy, reproductive justice requires resources and sustained organizing and momentum.