Access Is the Key to Reproductive Justice

Sep 22, 2021

For too long, people from all walks of life have fought to ensure individuals had the right to seek reproductive care. But even with these rights, access has been far from guaranteed. That is, people may have reproductive rights, but they still don’t have reproductive justice.

What is the difference between reproductive rights and reproductive justice (not to mention, reproductive health)? While these terms are all related, they do have different meanings:

  • Reproductive health: The direct care that healthcare clinics and agencies deliver by providing access to a full range of reproductive health services and empowering people to understand their health care needs.
  • Reproductive rights: Individual legal rights to reproductive healthcare services with a focus on keeping abortion legal, standardizing sex education, and increasing access to family planning services.
  • Reproductive justice: A blend of the terms “reproductive rights” and “social justice,” reproductive justice has been defined by the SisterSong organization as, “The human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”

While the struggle for reproductive justice has been around for decades, the term “reproductive justice” was invented in June 1994 when a group of Black women gathered at the Black Women’s Caucus in Chicago. They had just attended the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, where it was agreed that the individual right to plan your own family must be central to global development.

This group of women, who named themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, recognized that the women’s rights movement, led by white women, could not meet the needs of women of color and other marginalized women and transgender people. There needed to be a separate national movement to uplift the needs of the most marginalized women, families, and communities. Thus, the reproductive justice movement was born.

Fulfilling your reproductive destiny

At the heart of reproductive justice is the conviction that a person’s ability to determine their own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions in their community. Like most social determinants of health, many of these conditions are outside of a person’s direct control, including economic and environmental conditions and the availability of educational resources.

This is why reproductive rights are not enough to secure sexual and reproductive health – because it’s not just about a person’s legal choice. It’s also about overcoming roadblocks that stand in the way of their care. In other words, it’s about access. As SisterSong has said, “There is no choice where there is no access.”

For example, even though a person may have the right to use contraception, what good is that right if there are no clinics nearby that offer low-cost options? Or if that person doesn’t have the means to travel far to access these options?

Access is about overcoming the difficulties that women of color and other marginalized people have in obtaining all kinds of sexual and reproductive care: contraception, sex education, STI prevention and care, prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, and more.

How Afaxys is working toward greater reproductive justice

To improve access to reproductive and sexual healthcare, people need all kinds of options. For example, when it comes to contraception, no matter what method people choose, they need those options to be affordable.

Afaxys is committed to affordable access – it’s the backbone of our company’s mission and the reason we were founded. That’s why we provide community health centers that serve communities of color and other marginalized populations a full range of contraceptive options and offer them the tools to provide necessary care as affordably as possible.

We recognize that this is just one of the many steps that need to be taken to achieve reproductive justice. But it is and will continue to be a step worth taking so all people can fulfill their potential and live the lives they choose.

To learn more about reproductive justice, here are some resources that we’ve found helpful: