When people discuss abortion and reproductive rights, the conversation typically has a descriptor like “I am pro-life” or I am “pro-choice.” And by now, we know that when someone describes themselves as “pro-life,” they typically are “anti-abortion.” On the other hand, when someone describes themselves as “pro-choice,” they usually support abortion rights. Furthermore, when someone says that they are “pro-life,” they prioritize an embryo or fetus over the pregnant person. When someone says they are “pro-choice,” they believe a woman has the right to decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy.
Both of these are tired descriptors because neither accurately reflect the complexities of reproductive health access in this country. The truth is that not only do anti-abortion proponents reject bodily autonomy, but they typically do not vote in alignment with measures that would assist someone in raising a child, such as living wages, universal health care and subsidized child care. On the other hand, some who are “pro-choice” neglect the reality that many people who want an abortion are unable to access one. That’s why I like to say that I support Reproductive Justice for all. Let me explain why.
Reproductive Justice is a framework that was founded by 12 Black women activists, advocates and experts in Chicago in 1994, who named themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice. SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice 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.”
Specifically, the women who gathered in Chicago explained what Indigenous women, women of color, and trans people had known and experienced for decades: the reproductive rights movement excluded their stories and lived experiences. Rather, the feminist movement centered the white, middle-class experience. The Reproductive Justice framework is a departure from that because it analyzes power systems, centers the most marginalized, and addresses intersections.
Reproductive Justice means providing accessible abortion care, evidence-based sex education curriculum, making birth control affordable, removing abortion medication from a list of highly controlled prescriptions, defunding anti-abortion centers, and demanding that Catholic hospitals be transparent with their communities about the sexual and reproductive health services that they do and do not provide.
Christian nationalist policies promote antiquated, anti-science sex education in schools, give funding to crisis pregnancy centers (or fake clinics) and subsidize Catholic hospitals. In Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin, Catholic hospitals are dominant — denying people comprehensive reproductive health care options.
In terms of abortion affordability, anti-abortion legislation has made abortion inaccessible to millions of people for decades. The Hyde Amendment, which was first introduced in 1976 by staunch Catholic Rep. Henry J. Hyde and has been in effect for nearly 50 years, denies women on federal health insurance plans affordable abortion care. That means that people on Medicaid, in the Peace Corps or on the Indian Health Services Plan must pay the full cost for an abortion unless the state in which they reside subsidizes it. Since abortion can cost anywhere from $500 to over $2,000, this exacerbates inequities for people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Thankfully, abortion funds such as the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin (which was established by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor) help cover costs. However, far too many people still go without abortion care simply because they cannot afford it.
But Reproductive Justice goes beyond reproductive rights. It also means that we must rebuild health care, housing, wages, child care, education and nutrition plans while critically addressing the prison-industrial complex and the justice system — because the truth is that some people may have abortions because they do not want to raise their children without adequate nutrition, clean water, effective schools and safe housing. To truly be able to choose between having an abortion or becoming a parent, one must be able to have access to resources and opportunities.
That’s why I support the EACH Act. The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act would reverse the Hyde Amendment and related abortion coverage restrictions. Led by All* Above All, a women of color justice organization, the EACH Act is an important step in making abortion care affordable and accessible. First introduced in the House in 2021, FFRF joined All* Above All, a women of color coalition, and 150 other groups to support this bill.
It has recently been reintroduced and our support is needed more than ever. I encourage you to contact your representative and demand that they support the EACH Act. You can find your representative here.
For those of us who support bodily autonomy and abortion access, the Reproductive Justice framework makes us critically think about what “access” and “choice” really mean. If we believe in people making the choices that are the best for themselves, we must advocate for them to have access to all options.