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Teaching Reproductive Justice as a Social Movement

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Here are some recommendations for educators looking to bring resources about the movement for reproductive rights into their classes.


woman holding sign at abortion protest
 

Loretta Ross, “Understanding Reproductive Justice: Transforming the Pro-Choice Movement,” in off our backs, vol. 36:4, 2006, pp. 14-19.


This article offers a streamlined, accessible overview of the principles driving the movement for reproductive justice authored by activist, writer, and founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, Loretta Ross. In this piece, she lays out the differences between the traditional “pro-choice” feminist movement and the “RJ” movement, which broadens reproductive issues beyond individual access to abortion to address community concerns: “By shifting the focus to reproductive oppression [rather than ‘freedom’], the control and exploitation of women, girls, and individuals through our bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction-- … we are developing a more inclusive vision of how to build a new movement” (14). Ross then sketches out three central frameworks of this agenda-- reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice--in order to cultivate “leadership and power of the most excluded groups of women, girls, and individuals within a culturally relevant context” (19).

In six brief pages, Ross produces a blueprint for a new generation and multiracial, multi-class cohort of women activists.

 

Kimala Price, “What Is Reproductive Justice? How Women of Color Activists Are Redefining the Pro-Choice Paradigm,” in Meridians, vol. 10, no. 2 (2010), 42-65.


This more traditionally academic article overlaps somewhat with Loretta Ross’s piece in its attempt to define reproductive justice aims, but it enjoys more space to document the history of this movement’s evolution in greater detail. Kimala Price’s analytic approach also includes narrative analysis, a refreshing methodology that uses storytelling as both an “organizing” and “pedagogical tool” within activist groups that here gets redoubled to present the “collective public stories of “communities” rather than individuals (44). Price reminds her readers that “storytelling is how we give meaning to our experiences and convey those interpretations to others,” yet it also creates literal spaces to speak for those who are made to feel invisible within mainstream society (50). While referencing various women of color activists who have worked on reproductive issues in the past and into the present, she zeroes in on the work and texts of SisterSong, Loretta Ross’s collective.

 

Erica González Martinéz, “Dutiful Hijas: Dependency, Power, and Guilt,” in Colonize This! Young women of color on today’s feminism, Eds. Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman (Seal Press, 2002).


This essay captures the essence of Third Wave Feminism in its reliance on personal experience to flesh out broader concepts of this Millennial movement. Martinéz interweaves English and Spanish to explore her “dutiful” relationship to her Puerto Rican mother as well as the expectations placed on Latinx mothers overall. Her opening passage: “It started before I was born, before my mother was born, and before her mother was born. We were groomed to be caretakers, to carry the world on our shoulders without swaying and and then humbly accept accolades (que buena) for it. We were an impossible fusion of Wonder Woman’s strength and La Virgen Maria’s sanctity and sacrifice” (142). Students appreciate the author’s candid, confessional tone and her nuanced position as an independent adult: “Claiming our own voices doesn’t mean that we forego our people’s survival strategies and remarkable principles of sharing and looking out for one another (153).


Buy the anthology here

 

The Chicana M(other)work Anthology, Eds Cecilia Caballero, Yvette Martinez-Vu, Judith Perez-Torres, Michelle Tellez, Christine Vega (University of Arizona Press, 2019).


I have not yet read this work but am familiar with this collective’s fabulous website, which includes vibrant spanglish blogs, podcasts, a curriculum, parenting workshops … it’s a thriving enterprise. The collection is thematically organized in four parts: 1) Separation, Migration, State Violence, and Detention; 2) Chicana/Latina/WOC Mother-Activists; 3) Intergenerational Mothering; and 4) Loss, Reproductive Justice, and Holistic Pregnancy. Their aim? To promote “research and testimonios by Chicana and other Women of Color Mother-Scholars and activists who center mothering as an act of transformative labor within academic and community spaces through an intersectional lens.” These pieces are bursting with energy, wisdom, righteousness, and truths your students (and everyone) need to hear.


Buy the anthology here

 

Have any experience teaching about reproductive justice? Share your thoughts!