Reproductive Rights and Justice

Reproductive rights refers to the freedom of all persons to make decisions about whether and when to have a child: these rights may encompass contraception, abortion, sterilization, and childbirth. Although these rights may be grounded in understandings of decisional autonomy and/or bodily integrity, they have most often been defined and protected through the legal system. Because the United States has largely embraced a system of “negative rights” – ie, rights that encompass protection from governmental interference, but do not entitle rights bearers to affirmative provision by government — “reproductive rights” most commonly reference choices protected from governmental infringement under the Constitution, or the laws of the states. These rights have, until recently, included the right to abortion, which was stripped of its federal constitutional status in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), and is now regulated by the states; they also include the right to contraception, which was held to be protected by the Constitution in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).

Reproductive Justice is a framework developed by women of color working in communities and through collectives, such as Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective and Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, rather than within the formal structures of the legal system. Reproductive Justice defines its domain broadly, as including the right to have children, the right not to have children, the right to parent with dignity, and the means sufficient to secure these rights. This means that reproductive justice is achieved not only through prohibitions on government intervention, but through affirmative obligations of provision. The central insight of this framework is that we cannot address barriers to reproductive health and autonomy without confronting broader structural disparities based on race, class, sexuality, disability, and more; and that reproduction, which holds the potential for joy, has itself been a site of oppression, injury, and disparity for members of marginalized groups. Reproductive Justice seeks to respond by creating a movement for structural change, that centers the experience and leadership of those most vulnerable to reproductive and other forms of oppression.

CRRJ has worked in both of these areas through several different forms of activity. To take a few examples:

  • Litigation support – authored amicus briefs in cases related to Medicaid coverage of abortion and criminalization of self-managed abortion
  • Policy advocacy – published non-partisan policy analyses that contributed to the budgetary repeal of California’s welfare family cap in 2016
  • Legal education – authored and edited the first law school textbook on reproductive rights and justice issues, published in 2014
  • Convenings – brought together 1500 activists, academics, students, and community members since 2012