Reproductive Justice. What is it? Why does it matter? A term coined by Sister Song, a group of black women in 1994, Reproductive Justice is defined as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” The group advocates and educates American women about what it means to have full control over one’s own body.
Before coming to Tulane, I knew a little bit about Reproductive Justice. I got on the pill about a year ago, and my public high school had a decent health education program. My hometown of Rockville, Maryland sits just 25 minutes outside of Washington D.C.; growing up a few miles outside the city meant that the government infiltrated much of my young life. I’ve protested, I’ve canvased, and I’ve been a pretty active citizen since Trump won the presidency in 2016. More specifically, I took an interest in how this new administration would negatively impact the lives of women across the country. I am a white, straight, cis-gender female. I stand in a position of privilege, and I felt it was my duty to get involved.
When I moved to New Orleans last August, the first thing I did was sign up for SURJ, i.e. Students United For Reproductive Justice. The club meets once a week, and is open to anyone who wants to come and engage in conversation. People of all races, genders, and sexual orientations show up to explain what Reproductive Justice means to them. The club has hosted panels of women who work in the field, or students who’ve had internships at organizations like Planned Parenthood or Sister Song. Most recently, SURJ has been working on putting together their first conference, set to take place on March 22, 2020.
Because the organization is predominantly women, a common misconception about reproductive health is that only women need to be involved in the conversation. That’s a major issue that the club tries to address, as the legislators in Congress and the Senate are predominantly men. It’s an issue that either directly or indirectly impacts every U.S. citizen, whether you are a mother, father, daughter, son, etc. Everyone in this country either is or knows a woman. Similarly, most people know someone was the victim of a sex crime, who had a failed pregnancy, or who takes birth control. The prior statement addresses yet another common misconception: Reproductive Justice is not solely about abortions. That is a very small portion of the whole concept.
A sociology professor at Tulane once told me that politics is just a synonym for power. In order to harness my own power, I needed to pick a topic and get political. SURJ provides a way for me to keep learning about how to act as an advocate for women whose bodily rights are being denied. Whether it be Maryland, Louisiana, or wherever I move to after I graduate, I want to continue to stand up for myself and others. After all, politics are in my blood.
Cover Photo: Hannah Leibovich