In April, I’ll be presenting “Reproductive Justice as a Social Work Value: Using Intersectional Analysis in Maternal and Reproductive Health Advocacy” at the National Association of Social Workers-NYC‘s third annual “Social Work in the City” conference. During this presentation, I’ll be introducing the Reproductive Justice framework to social workers and how it connects to the NASW Code of Ethics; provide strategies in applying intersectional analysis in reproductive health education, counseling, and advocacy; and provide strategies for advocating for Reproductive Justice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of social work. The NASW-NYC did an excellent job in choosing some dynamic workshop topics, so if you’ll be in the area, make sure you register.
But today’s post isn’t so much about Reproductive Justice as it is about ethics. In many professions, people work under a code of ethics. It’s the profession or an organization’s way of operating and presents guiding principles on how to handle certain situations. In the NASW Code of Ethics, the first ethical standard involves a social worker’s ethical responsibilities to clients, including the client’s right to self-determination: “Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals…”
Because I’m so immersed in Reproductive Justice, I can see how the framework falls in line with a client’s right to self-determination. Whether a person chooses birth, adoption, or abortion, it’s my responsibility as a social worker to provide unbiased information and to help a client arrive at a decision based on their goals and their current situation. A choice someone makes may not be a choice you’d make for yourself. It’s a lesson you learn quickly once you enter the social work field or any other field within the helping professions.
Back when I was working for an agency that provided case management services, I worked with people from all walks of life. In general, I had no problems working with anyone who was different from me. Except men who had a history of physical and sexual violence towards women and girls. Early on in my social work career, I would just ask my supervisor to transfer these client cases to another caseworker and would explain my reason for the transfer request. As I started to build my skills as a social worker, I learned how to focus on delivering the best care possible, in spite of my personal feelings. This may work for some, and for others there may be some counter-transference issues that will prevent them from doing so.