Reproductive Justice Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

2 May

We have a lot of discussions in the reproductive justice community about our struggles with the way women, particularly women we know personally and consistently interact with, handle every stage of reproduction, from preventing pregnancy to terminating it, from announcing that they are having children to actually raising them.

Men and genderqueer people along a range of the identity spectrum also have and raise children, but I will posit here that their needs are different than those of self-identified women, whether cis or trans, as are their struggles. What we deal with in reproductive justice centers mostly around the constructed identity of “women,” and the problems that are constructed to go right along with it. For instance, our editor sent an article around the other day, “Baby Bumps on Facebook All the Rage,” in which someone with “Dr.” in their title concern-trolled young women who posed with their “baby bumps,” (side note: WE MUST ELIMINATE THIS PHRASE. operation eliminate “baby bump”: commence. stage: early plotting.) expressing fear that their pregnancy would spread, like cancer or some other disease you get from breathing the same air as a person who already has it. The good “Dr.” felt it would be best not to make pregnancy look like remotely any fun unless a girl is good and married and financially secure.

Here’s the problem: there’s something to that argument, isn’t there? As a women’s rights activist, I want young women to have educational and career opportunities that may be closed to them if they get pregnant in their teens. I want young women to have independence from their families and certainly from significant others, independence that is harder to come by once you have children.

While we were discussing the article, one of our writers weighed in with her own experiences as a woman who had a child before she was twenty. She talked about enjoying being pregnant, and still wanting to look cute when she went to school, and why shouldn’t she? And as she asked that question, I had two simultaneous gut reactions: “Is it responsible to look happy about being a teen mom?” and “Why shouldn’t she?”

We’ve had discussions at Abortion Gang about people announcing their pregnancies early on Facebook (a lot of us expressed legitimate concern that it could make a miscarriage very painful, and there are obvious structural problems with the way these behaviors continue to reinforce heteronormative gender roles), about people announcing their miscarriages on Facebook (it’s great that people feel more open to talking about that now/it’s hard to watch people go through), about adoption as a birth parent, a parent, and a child, about all the stages of pregnancy and all the stages of preventing pregnancy, about STDs, about parenting as a process, and ultimately, this is what I would like to conclude:

Reproductive justice means never having to say you’re sorry.

The reason I, personally, have moved away from the “pro-choice” framework is because I find it limiting; I think we need a bigger framework now to encompass our understanding of “choice” as beyond pregnant or not-pregnant to how to get pregnant, how to stay not-pregnant, how to support pregnancy or not-pregnancy, and all of the heirarchies and indexes of citizenship and power that are written upon our unwitting bodies that allow or disallow participation in those choices.

I believe reproductive justice is about two things: awareness and access. Reproductive justice activism is about moving towards a world in which every person makes choices about preventing pregnancy, getting pregnant, having sex, parenting, not parenting, abortion, STDs, and the million other things that encompass “sex and our lived existence” (and that includes not-sex – abstinence is also about reproductive justice) with awareness (education about what their choices and options are, the structures of power and inequality that influence those choices) and access (the real ability to, having evaluated their options, choose what is best for them and then get it).

With that in mind, here is my brief queerifesto of reproductive justice:

When you educate yourself about all the ways to not get pregnant and then have great, communicative, open, glorious, mind-blowing orgasms by yourself or with another person or several other people,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you choose to parent a child or choose to have someone else parent the child you gave birth to knowing all of your options, with access to the economic equality necessary to make this decision about something other than money,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you wait until after your first trimester to announce your pregnancy on Facebook because you realize that you are in the most danger of miscarrying, and you need that experience, should it happen, to be private,
that’s reproductive justice,

and

When you post your pregnancy on Facebook the second that pink plus sign appears, and you understand that things can go wrong but you are prepared to deal with that with the help and support and love from your community you know you have,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you know you made a choice to parent or not to parent based on economic circumstances you couldn’t control, and you fight to empower other people so they can make their own choices without the economic inequality you faced,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you take a friend to get an abortion at a clinic that you know is good to trans people because he doesn’t want to have to discuss why his gender is “wrong” on his license,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you are thrilled out of your mind to be pregnant at 16 years old and you blog about it and sing about it and wear a really low-cut shirt to school because your boobs may never look this good again,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you help a friend decide not to have a baby because her husband is abusive
and you know a baby will make it worse
and then help her leave him and keep the baby and offer support while she raises that kid you love,
that’s reproductive justice.

When you get an IUD because you like that it is a non-hormonal form of birth control and you know the fucked-up history of IUDs and eugenics and you understand how the sacrifices of poor women and women of color and unmarried women and disabled women gave that choice of yours a history,
that is reproductive justice.

When you make sure no one ever forgets the ways that power gets written on women’s bodies in heirarchies of race and class and religion and a score of other things,
that’s reproductive justice with a vengeance.

I could write a million more verses to the song of why reproductive justice means never having to say you’re sorry, but I would most of all like to hear what reproductive justice means to you, what tune you sing that song in, in the comments. Whether it’s a manifesto, womanifesto, queerifesto, or otherwise – what is reproductive justice to you?

2 Responses to “Reproductive Justice Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry”

  1. Crystal May 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Wow I’m surprised and disappointed that no-one has commented on this! I love it.

    It might be a small thing, but I’d like it if, when I say I don’t want children and I’m not going to have any, people respected that instead of judging me harshly or saying, with a knowing smirk, “well, you’ve got time to change your mind.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Center for Media Justice : The Danger of the One Story - July 1, 2012

    […] The daylong media workshop was like my own personal Disneyland—minus the behemoth media conglomerate/bajillion dollar lobbying force part. Experts came together as part of a daylong media workshop on polling research, framing and messaging, integrating messaging, and public relations, all within the reproductive justice framework. […]

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