Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger



“all persons and persons who reproduce and become parents require a safe and dignified context for these most fundamental human experiences” (Ross and Solinger 9).

Negative rights are a government’s obligation to refrain from unduly interfering people’s mental, physical, and spiritual autonomy. Positive rights are a government’s obligation to ensure that people can exercise their freedoms and enjoy the benefits of society” (Ross and Solinger 10 ).

“health care, including reproductive health care, is properly a human right, not a commodity for purchase”(Ross and Solinger 17).

Summary: The slavery regime produced pronatalist laws such as ensuring that the status of every newborn would follow the status of its mother and not its father. This ensured the growth of the unfree population. At the same time the government was working on antinatalist programs to reduce Native American populations. The Indian Removal act of 1830 enabled the government to use its military to force natives from their lands to provide new lands for cotton plantations. It was an agressive process that many women and their infants did not survive. Once they finally arrived in the Southeast, men far outnumbered women “consequently, the reproductive potential of Native communities was devastated”(Ross and Solinger 22).

“while laws, policies and brutal practices degraded enslaved and native women, they ennobled free white women in contrast…the white mother was the fundamental creative symbol of the white nation: dependent but dignified, innocent and pious but wise… she was tethers to the home shaping the destiny of the nation by raising citizen-sons and future mothers of the Republic… Her embodied, intimate whiteness.. together with her fecund reproductive capacity… amounted to the nation’s most precious resource” (Ross and Solinger 23).

“Some historians have underemphasized a key justification for laws criminalizing contraception and abortion in the 19th century: to make sire that white women brought their pregnancies to term and gave birth to all the white children necessary for populating a white nation” (Ross and Solinger 24).

“Underscoring the rigidity and ‘natural’ logic of the racial divide, they crafted and promoted state-run programs to protect “deserving” and “virtuous” mothers… the new mothers pension programs recognized the value of mothers who met certain cultural, racial and so-called moral standards”(Ross and Solinger 26). (women of color or often seen as unfit)

“the new ‘science’ of eugenics used to revitalize older theories of white supremacy and justify Jim Crow practices of racial separation…working with eugenicists…laws created that criminalized interracial sex and permitted sterilization for ‘racial betterment'” (Ross and Solinger 30).

“the Sheppard- Towner act of 1921… established the first federally funded social welfare program in the United States… provide services such as infant and maternity care for the poor and pre- and postpartum education for pregnant women. Some states permitted inferior services to women of color under this program, while as we have seen, a number of states that sponsered mothers’ pension programs limited recipients to ‘worthy’, effectively white, widows and their children. This persistent feature of pubic programs gave special value to white mothers and families while devaluing the maternity and the children of others.”(Ross and Solinger 36).

Summary: The Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) as part of the social security act initiated by President Roosevelt in 1935, to appeal to southern politicians, excluded agricultural and domestic workers from these benefits. These jobs were primarily filled by African American women. (Ross and Solinger 36 ).

Apartheid (“apartness” in the language of Afrikaans) was a system of legislation that upheld segregationist policies against non-white citizens of South Africa

“rules permitted welfare- department surveillance of a mother’s house, typically targeting women of color… the point was to entrap women who were, extraordinarily, forbidden by so called man-in-the-house rules to have sexual relations and to have children while the received public benefits. This system operated on the premise that sex-while-poor was against the law, and punishment was loss of benefits”(Ross and Solinger 41).

1960s and 70s National Welfare Rights Organizations- “they insisted on their right, despite their poverty to be mothers, and they maintained their status as mothers qualified them as citizens deserving social provision. These claims would later form the backbone of the reproductive justice movement” (Ross and Solinger 43).

“Cultural and political authorities disqualified both white females and females of color withour husbands from authentic motherhood… the white mother was pressed hard to relinquish her child; the mother of color had ‘no choice’ but to keep hers and suffer official punishments for having given birth” (Ross and Solinger 43 ).

summary: to avoid the horrible experiences of coerced adoption, shame, unwanted pregnancy these woman turned to abortion

“Roe closely associated the concept of choice with a ‘zone of privacy’ withen women could make reproductive decisions… only women of who could afford to enter the market places of choice0 motherhood, abortion, and adoption for example- had access to this zone…choice (women of color activists) they argued djsguised the ways that laws, policies and piblic officials differently punish or reward the childbearing of different groups of women…” (Ross and Solinger 47).

“the medicaid program paid for sterilizations of poor women- although not for abortions up to 150,000 annually…ironically but predictably, at the very same time, white women had a hard time getting doctors to agree to tie their tubes” (Ross and Solinger 51).

Hyde amendment- “while cutting off access to abortion, the amendment’s supporters frequently described poor women as ‘bad choice makers’ and bad mothers who require reproductive restrictions on their sex life and its consequences… sentenced (without medical consultation) to a regimen of long-acting contraceptives or prosecuted for a behavior that pregnant middle-class women could easily keep private” (Ross and Solinger 54).


“stories make our individual and community survival more likely, especially when we tell subversive stories about resisting oppression” (Ross and Solinger 60 ).

Insert story then >

“The pro-choice side is primarily concerned with legality, safety, and access. The pro-life side emphasizes morality, religion and the potential life of the unborn child. Sometimes pro-life advocates scorn the woman’s reasons for seeking an abortion, finding them much less important than considerations of a potential human life. At the same time pro-choicers question a woman’s decision to continue pregnancy by judging this person as unfit to parent. They may claim she already has too many kids, she is too poor, she has a bad contraceptive history. BOTH sides fail to understand the answers to the OMG questions are the actual logic chain that a woman goes though when she is deciding to continue or end a pregnancy. (Ross and Solinger 62 ).

“While reproductive justice was created by women of color, its precepts apply not only to women of color. But only women of color created a theoretical break through in this arena that is universally relevant” (Ross and Solinger 72).

“Black women stand at the intersection of Race and Gender streets, vulnerable to injury from cars traveling along either axis…Lacking an intersectional perspective, African American women do not have the vocabulary or the conceptual spaces for addressing the harms they suffer, especially because our legal structures are not designed to account for multiple forms of oppression” (Ross and Solinger 73).

“One of the ways the US constitution is limited is that the legal system it produces focuses on intentions, not effects. The supreme court has held that id a law is disproportionately burdens a class-even if the disparate impact is credibl caused by discrimination-it is upheld. It is only when a law is unequivocally determined to have been motivated by discriminatory intent that its constitutionality is seriously in question” (Ross and Solinger 79 ).

Sum: Cannot afford to pay for their health care (those on medicaid) those whose healthcare is provided by federal government (women in military, on Indian reservations, or in the Peace Corps) prohibited from using health care insurance anywhere to pay for abortion (Ross and Solinger 80).

“Safe, accessible, affordable- that’s what we expect from a responsible government dedicated to protecting the enabling conditions for its citizens on the move. (access to airplane) So whu is abortion exempted from that protection simply because of the objections of a religious minority?” (Ross and Solinger 81).

“Famously the author of the Hyde Amendment, Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), A catholic who objected to abortion on religious grounds, described his agenda this way: ‘I certainly would like to prevent if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. unfortunately, The only vehicle available is the HEW Medicaid bill” (Ross and Solinger 82).

<Look into Canada’s abortion laws>

“In early 1970s in the era of commercialization and commodification of aeverything, Abortion-rights advocates selected the less-threatening shopping concept of choice over the harder-edges political term rights to signify what women need…This… suggested that every woman possesses the wherewithal- the money and legal terrain- to enter into that marketplace of options and pay for whatever option she selected: contraception, abortion, or motherhood.” (Ross and Solinger 83).


Legacy of Hyde

Hyde amendment: “by refusing support to poor women who depended on public health care, he explained tha he could reduce the number of abortion in the United States” (Ross and Solinger 128 ).

Justice Potter Stewart on the upholding of the hyde amendment: “Although government may not place obstacles in the path of a woman’s exercise of freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation: indigency falls in the latter category” > Clarified core difference in neg/ pos rights (Ross and Solinger 129).

“no right is secure if it is not secure for everybody”(Ross and Solinger 129).

“congress voted to extend the amendment’s restrictions to many other groups of people who rely on the federal government for health care” (inclds ^ plus federal employees and their dependents, teeenagers recieving health care through children’s Health insurance program)

the hyde amendment began by targeting poor woman, but the amendment’s claim that the government could make a ‘value judgement favoring childbirth over abortion’ and could allocate funds accordingly justified restricting ‘choices’ of all women through the imposition of waiting periods, state-directed counseling, parental notification rules, and other constraints” (Ross and Solinger 130).

“while freedom of religion is a human right so is freedom from religion” (Ross and Solinger 130).

“activist scholar and lawyer Rhonda Copelon reflected ‘The divergence between the right to abortion and the reality of access transformed abortion from a privacy right into a privilege” (Ross and Solinger 131 ).

legislating difference & privilege

“Today they (poor pregnant women) are likely to be regarded as undeserving mothers and denied welfare benefits all together under the rules of the AFDC’s successor program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). They are likely to be unemployed or to have jobs that do not pay a living wage, and they are fairly likely to be desperately poor. If they are immigrants who have been in the country, even legally, for less than five years they are likely to be ineligible for public health care all together” (Ross and Solinger 133 ).

2011 anti-abortion billboard campaign in New York City… publicly proclaimed, ‘The most dangerous place for an African American is the womb’ of African American mothers, after proclaiming on other billboards in 2010 in Atlanta that ‘Black Children are an endangered species’ ” (Ross and Solinger 134).

“…states have passed laws banning sex-selective abortions based on the myth that cultural pressure are coercing Asian women to (abort female embryos and) pursue a preference in male children” (Ross and Solinger 134).

“By claiming to save African American and Asian American women from themselves, the antiabortion movement attempt to use race and ethnicity to weaken the abortion rights movement. Antiabortion activists believe they can legislate against the motives of women seeking abortions… previously, doctors were not forced to inquire about women’s motives for seeking an abortion as a condition for medical care” (Ross and Solinger 135).

“…the Hyde paved the way for modern politics to trump medical judgement and also to eclipse individual rights”

“Arizona, for example, prohibits public finding of medical training for abortion and prevents taxpayers from taking charitable deductions on their state’s taxes for contributions to reproductive health organizations. Ohio prohibits abortions in public hospitals, many states have defunded Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides basic health care services…to nearly three million people annually” (Ross and Solinger 138 ).

“Public polices make abortion the most “unjustified” reason to get an abortion, no matter a person’s medical needs. Studies have found that ‘the majority of women with government health care were denied coverage for medically necessary abortions [while] most women with private health care insurance had abortion coverage'(Ross and Solinger 139 ).

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