sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

March 14, 2012

What Is Reproductive Justice Anyway?

I first heard the term from Sandra Fluke, a one time President of Georgetown chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, who, of course, wanted Catholics to buy her a condom.  I didn’t understand what justice has to do with it.  Sexual activity has consequences, one of which is pregnancy.  Although law and social norms dictate that fathers provide for their families, women shoulder most physical demands of childbearing and sacrifice our professional lives (at least in part) to raise families.  This is the way of nature, and, it seems to me, asking nature for justice is useless.  Like birth, death is the way of nature, and yet we do not ask for justice for kids who die of leukemia.

On the other hands, scientific advances make it possible to cure leukemia, or at least delay death.  Similarly, new technologies and free markets brought us the $5 Pill.  So what is Sandra Fluck complaining about?

I looked up “reproductive justice”.  Proponents taut it as a subset of social justice, but I have trouble distinguishing between the two.  The concept of reproductive justice was developed in 1994 by a black feminist Loretta J. Ross after attending International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt where she got to hang out with other black feminists.  According to a sympathetic profile, Ross got involved in radical politics (black nationalists, Marxists and the like) while attending Howard College in the early 1970s.  Tragically, Dalkon Shield left her infertile at 23 years of age.  In 1997 Ross founded SisterSong, a collective that offers reproductive justice seminars that cost 2K minimum to attend — 2/3 of Fluke’s yearly contraception budget.

While the pro-abortion movement is primarily an upper middle class white phenomena, reproductive justice is lead by minority women.  To be sure, reproductive justice champions embrace abortions and on their wiki entry sing praises to noted racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger.  They move beyond abortion, however, formulating a more holistic approach to women’s health, with more holistic demands (NOW has the wish list — from maternity leaves to illegal immigration) within the acceptable lefty causes, excluding, of course, pleas that lower class men of all colors stay with the families they started.  In other words, social justice by other name.

According to SisterSong website, reproductive justice moves discussion not just beyond abortion, but also beyond the Constitution:

Human rights provide more possibilities for our struggles than the privacy concepts the pro-choice movement claims only using the U.S. Constitution. Reproductive justice emerged as an intersectional theory highlighting the lived experience of reproductive oppression in communities of color.

How about another quote:

Reproductive Justice is important for women of color because it provides an exciting, intersectional framework that allows us to include all the social justice and human rights issues that affect our lives. This can be done without segmenting, isolating, and pitting one priority against another.

They certainly love the word “intersectional” over at SisterSong.  I suppose I love cheap shots.  But really, what do we say about people who refuse to prioritize?  We say that they want it all, right?

When I went to college I was taught that “segmenting” and “isolating” is supposed to be alienating, but I found it empowering.  When we segment and isolate we analyze, use reason.  Reason doesn’t alienate us from the community, it makes us a better member of it.  But not according to SisterSong who, with this quote, invite us to move beyond Western Civilization and the Enlightenment.  Reproductive justice advocates reject individual liberty, which for them means “choice,” in favor of group rights.  This makes perfect sense, considering that feminism started out as a bourgeois movement that asked for equal treatment under law and morphed into a group rights political establishment.

One reproductive justice blogger suggests that if Sandra Fluke were black nobody would blink an eye if Rush said she’s a slut.  I have to chuckle at this hypothetical.  Many conservative women, most of them white, were called worse names, and no national outrage followed.  Still, it’s interesting that Sandra Fluke, a privileged white college girl, who is evidently dating a son of a major Democrat donor, became the face of free contraception.

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