Reproductive Justice: What it Means and Why It Matters

It’s not enough for a service to be available. Access is key. What if you live in a community located far away from specialized services? What if you work multiple jobs to pay household bills, how can you afford to take the time off to visit a clinic and make use of these services? How do you find the means to travel to access those services? These are daily challenges that many women are faced with and greatly impact marginalized communities. 

What is reproductive justice?

What if all women and girls enjoyed optimal health and well-being in a socially just society? Equal access to culturally competent resources? Affordable services? If all these criteria were met, we would be much closer to obtaining reproductive justice, a term that oftentimes gets mistaken as synonymous with reproductive rights. However, the two are distinctly different. 

Reproductive rights are centered around the legal right to access reproductive health care services such as abortion and birth control. Reproductive justice goes beyond the pro-choice narrative by acknowledging the fact that there are intersecting factors such as race and class that impact marginalized groups of women differently, and that this means not every woman has the freedom of choice in her health care when her options are limited by the oppressive circumstances or lack of access to services. What’s the use of having a right if you cannot access the services that right has provided?

How did the reproductive justice movement start?

Reproductive justice emerged as a movement because women with low incomes, women of colour, women with disabilities, and 2SLGBTQ+ people felt marginalized in the reproductive rights movement of the 1970s, which focused primarily on pro-choice versus pro-life debates. 

In 1997, 16 women-of-colour-led organizations representing four communities of colour, including Native American, Latin American, African American and Asian American, launched the non-profit SisterSong to build a national reproductive justice movement in the United States. Since then, numerous reproductive justice organizations have formed around the world with the goal of improving social, political and economic inequalities that impact a woman’s ability to access reproductive health care services.

As challenges and barriers continue to arise in the face of reproductive rights and justice, it’s more important than ever to build and strengthen a new generation who will fight for unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care. 

Reproductive Justice Framework

  1.  Access to abortion services  
  2.  Access to contraception 
  3.  Comprehensive sex education 
  4.  Prevention and care for sexually transmitted infections 
  5.  Adequate prenatal and pregnancy care 
  6.  Adequate wages to support families 
  7.  Domestic violence assistance
  8.  Safe homes

Everyone stands to benefit from understanding and joining the reproductive justice movement. By partnering, reproductive rights and reproductive justice organizations can collectively tackle some of the broadest threats to women’s reproductive health that we are currently faced with.

To achieve reproductive justice, we must…

  1. Analyze power systems – historical acts have been based on gendered, sexualized and racialized acts of dominance
  2. Address intersecting oppressions – marginalized women face multiple oppressions and we help to reduce barriers by addressing how they impact one another 
  3. Center the most marginalized – our society will not be free until the most vulnerable people are able to access the resources and full human rights to live self-determined lives without fear or discrimination 
  4. Join together across issues and identities – all oppressions impact our reproductive lives – the intersectionality approach is both an opportunity and a call to come together as one movement with the power to win freedom for all oppressed women

In order to address the needs and issues of a diverse group of women while acknowledging the layers of oppressions that our communities face, particularly those who do not have access to privilege, power, and resources, we must build a new movement for Reproductive Justice in Canada.

Author  | Hannah Roberts (Reproductive Health Portfolio)


  1. Ahmed, O., & Gamble, C. M. (2017, January 16). Reproductive Justice: What It Means and Why It Matters (Now, More Than Ever) | Public Health Post. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from
  2. Ross, L. J. (2006). Understanding Reproductive Justice . SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.
  3. Sister Song – Women of Color Representative Justice Collective. (n.d.). Reproductive Justice. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from
  4. World Health Organization. (2021). Reproductive health. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from