"Lawyers Club of San Diego has a New Committee Focusing on Reproductive Justice"
Lawyers Club of San Diego has two new committees – The Reproductive Justice Committee and the Women’s Advocacy Committee. The two are a split of the former Reproductive Rights and Women’s Advocacy Committee. Why the split and why change from reproductive rights to reproductive justice?
Many of the victories won under the reproductive rights movement have typically been limited to two topics: access to contraception, and the availability of safe and legal abortion. At the very core of the movement is a desire for these basic rights to be guaranteed under the law. But for many, particularly women of color, the fight does not end there. A much broader set of concerns stems from the barriers for many women in actually realizing these rights.
Thus, a change in the movement arose, and the term “reproductive justice” was originally coined to represent the unique fight of women of color for reproductive rights, blended with an ongoing fight for social justice. Reproductive justice moves beyond the focus of individual choice, and closely examines the way in which our communities and government may create inequality for women through limited or no individual reproductive choice.
The term Reproductive Justice has been defined as: “The complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women's human rights.” It’s important to note this movement stretches beyond a woman’s right to limit the number of children, if any, she wishes to have. It also addresses the right a woman has to raise her children with dignity in a safe, healthy, and supportive environment.
Including the important perspective of a diverse group of women allows the movement to unfold layers of oppression that our communities face, through an intersectional analysis of women's “real life” experiences. Some of these cross-sections include women of color, women with disabilities, incarcerated women, women involved in sex work or sex trade, low-income women, and LGBTQ women.
One alarming and complex example of the reproductive justice analysis occurred in Texas in 2011 after state lawmakers decreased funding for family planning services by 66 percent, closing 82 family planning clinics. Not only did low-income women in particular have less access to birth control, but the number of pregnancy-related deaths doubled from 78 in 2010 to 148 in 2011.
A task force was created to examine this increase and discovered a shocking statistic - African-American mothers accounted for 11.4 percent of Texas births in 2011 and 2012, but 28.8 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. The task force stated the overall increase in deaths was likely due to a “multitude of factors," including the funding decrease coupled with a lack of affordable health care for low-income women. The reproductive justice framework analyzes the effect of these drastic funding cuts from the perspective of women of color and low-income women who are already at risk of not realizing their full reproductive health needs.
I’m excited to Co-Chair the new Reproductive Justice Committee this year and to challenge Lawyers Club members to view reproductive health not just from the legal stand point that we are used to, but in a more complex and broader context of well-being and community. I hope you will join us!
(Meetings are held the first Friday of the month at 12:00-1:00p.m. at DLA Piper downtown. Contact Mehry Mohseni or Chelsea Mutual with any questions on how to get involved.)
Mehry Mohseni is a family law attorney with Cage & Miles, LLP and co-chair of the Reproductive Justice Committee.