February 6, 2024

Reproductive Justice

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Reproductive Justice movement –– a framework created by 12 Black women as a tool to imagine a more holistic, liberatory approach to reproductive health advocacy. In 1994, the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice (WADRJ) convened for the first time in Chicago to address how the health rights movement had excluded Black women and other marginalized populations. 

This Black History Month, we take a moment to reflect on the original demands of the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice. In August of 1994, WADRJ took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post and Roll Call in response to President Bill Clinton’s universal health care plan. With 800+ signatures supporting the statement, WADRJ reminded readers that “Reproductive freedom is a life and death issue for many Black women and deserves as much recognition as any other freedom.”  

Their statement called for “unimpeded access to abortion as a part of the full range of reproductive health services,” universal coverage and access to health services for all people, comprehensive coverage for all sexual and reproductive health care, and protection from discrimination for all women of color, elderly people, poor people, people with disabilities, and people of all sexualities. 

Three decades later, these demands remain as relevant as ever. Without universal health care coverage and freedom from discrimination – we are seeing deadly consequences here in Maine and across the country. Last year, the Permanent Commission on Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations reported that “BIPOC communities not only have worse maternal health outcomes in Maine than their White counterparts, they additionally have reduced access to prenatal care, which is a key element in ensuring overall maternal health.” 

This year, at Cross Cultural Community Services’s Black History Month Community Wellness Fair, we’ll be joined by field experts to discuss Reproductive Justice here in Maine, including the Permanent Commission’s findings and the state of maternal health care. We encourage you to register and join us in Lewiston on March 1 for this important discussion. 

This Black History Month and beyond, we must recommit to Reproductive Justice, in line with the original agenda of the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice. We must continue to honor and center Black voices in the movement because we would not have a movement for reproductive freedom without the visionary leadership of Black women. Only then can our nation ensure a future where everyone has access to the reproductive health care they need. We invite you to continue the fight for universal health care, access to all sexual and reproductive health services, and freedom from discrimination for all people. To learn more about Reproductive Justice and its history, we suggest this wonderful reading list.