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What Does Reproductive Justice Look Like in Your Community?

I recently shared in this infographic some background information on people who filled out my Reproductive Justice training/toolkit survey, particularly what they struggle with related to integrating RJ in their programs, services, and community campaigns.

Today, let’s take a look some additional information that uncovers insight into what’s important to people in embracing RJ.

In the infographic I shared the various identities of the respondents (students, nonprofit professionals, community volunteers, etc.), but what I didn’t share was where respondents were located.

Out of 77 respondents,

  • The majority (77%) live in the Northeast region of the United States (New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, etc.)
  • Ten percent live in the Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, etc.)
  • Six percent live on the West Coast or in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, California, Washington, etc.)
  • Five percent live in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, etc.)
  • Two percent live in the Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, etc.)

This information is important because it highlights a key component in developing a program or service: Where you are plays a vital role in how successful and adaptable a program, service, or campaign will be. Success is subjective, but being able to create a program, service or campaign that can be easily adaptable to the community it’s placed in is important.

I’ve lived in New York City since 2008. I’m originally from Georgia. When it comes to real estate, the job market, social services and more, New York and Georgia are two totally different worlds. Making $100,000 a year in Georgia looks completely different from making that annual income in New York.  Likewise, getting funding for programs and services may look differently in New York compared to Georgia. More importantly, what prevents a community from fully achieving Reproductive Justice is dependent on where that community is located. While some things may be similar, there are aspects unique to a community, city, or state that can add to or detract from achieving Reproductive Justice.

Let’s take a look at some of the responses to the question “In your opinion, what barriers do you/your community face in achieving Reproductive Justice?”, broken down by region:

Midwest

“A scarcity of resources for advocacy, a hostile legislative environment, stigma from progressive partners and the community in general, racism in institutions and interpersonally.”

“Inability in Red States and Flyover states for former pro-choice reproductive rights people to sustain commitment to anti-racism in messaging.”

“Clear definition [of RJ], racial inequality, unjust legal system, political process that is run by money.”

Northeast

“Patriarchal and misogynistic institutions, including government and medical. Also I see too often the definition is limited to abortion rights, and there are many other concerns that come into reproductive justice. Similarly, it is too often made a “woman’s issue,” when it is a HUMAN issue.”

“Funding, alignment with other organizations in our area about how to work together, figuring out the right power structures/systems to target, moving beyond individual-level change.”

“Lack of access to culturally competent providers, lack of information, racism, capitalism. Many people in my community are uninsured or unaware that their insurance covers contraception and maternal services. There is often a lack of options for providers, not enough doctors to care for my community and environmental/socioeconomic pressures that adversely affect other areas of my community’s life.”

Southeast

“Fighting the culture that sex shames or body shames people who aren’t a part of the white heteronormative Christian community. No one wants to give out free birth control or abortions, because they think if they talk about sex, it will encourage minors to have sex. Or even when it comes to raising minimum wage, there’s a lot of people who can’t talk about the economy and what fair wages really should be because all they see is the incorrect stereotype of lazy people of color getting free food, to talk.”

“Politicians’ attempts to infringe upon a woman’s right to choose if, when, how, and with whom to start a family. Stigma related to reproductive choices. Lack of access to family planning services, either by geographic, economic, political, or social restrictions.”

“It is difficult for immigrants to have procedures if they do not have proper identification. Also, many of the places that women go to get ultrasounds do not give them information about all of the choices they have.”

Southwest

“In my opinion, restrictive laws and legislation, along with community stigma, are key barriers to receiving abortion services, which is what my nonprofit works on.”

The silos that we work in – and our need to focus on one thing to be effective and get funding – is one barrier. Our organization only has the capacity to do one thing and we are competing with partners for funding.”

West Coast/Pacific Northwest

“Among the barriers that my community (personal) faces, is the limiting idea that pins reproduction to reporductive age, female identified bodies, excluding men, children, disabled bodies (full range of disabilities incl physical and mental), aged bodies. In my professional community the barriers have to do with power structures, primarily external, but internally as well, that push white women to positions of power. I see a lack of diversity at the ‘top’.”

“Repro health research suffers from a lack of diversity of perspective, and therefore, is often limited in the extent to which it can adequately represent intersectionality in its findings.”

“I recently moved to the area so this is tough for me but from what I know, there is fairly good access to abortion but we are working on raising the minimum wage and getting paid family leave. There is generally good insurance coverage for abortion and birth control but there is a significant homeless population.”

Two reasons

There were two reasons I asked about barriers to achieving Reproductive Justice in one’s community. For one, it gives me insight into being intentional with the adaptability of this RJ training and toolkit. Second, outside of this training and toolkit, it lets me see what’s happening around the country.

But as we see, there are some commonalities on barriers that keep communities from achieving Reproductive Justice, despite some barriers being more prominent in certain regions than in others (That doesn’t mean that it’s not happening, however.)

Re-read the first quote under Southeast. While reviewing the comments from all respondents, I notice that religion (in particularly Christianity) and its role in stigmatizing reproductive health services was mentioned more for respondents living in this region of the U.S. compared to others.

Re-read the second comment from a respondent living in the Midwest. The “term” red states” means states that are more conservative (and highlighted as red when you’re watching a presidential election night, for example) and the term “flyover states” refers to states in which there is insufficient coverage and attention by the mainstream media outlets, in addition to a lack of support from bigger, well-known Reproductive Health/Rights/Justice organizations. This presents unique challenges for the Midwest yet also provides unique opportunities for Midwest social justice activism that’s more creative and outside of the box compared to the Northeast, for example.

Funding was a theme that came up often for respondents in the Northeast as well as the Southeast. Me mentioning that I live in New York while being from Georgia was for good reason. New York (the city that makes up the five boroughs, at least) has more resources compared to many states. Those resources many be severely stretched due to the population, but this is a common narrative that folks outside of New York City believe, thus prompting them to move to the area. An increase in population correlates to an increase for the need of resources. Also, homelessness is a nationwide problem, but it was a theme for respondents living in on the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest.

These responses are just the tip of the iceberg, but I wanted to highlight them to show you what Reproductive Justice looks like in different regions of the U.S., from various perspectives. While some things may play a factor in most parts of the country, barriers specific to different regions can lead to innovative ways in tackling these barriers. Knowing what’s going on in your community will take you far in developing programs, services and campaigns that are adaptable, sustainable, and impactful for your community.

RAISE YOUR VOICE: What are some unique challenges and opportunities in your community that impact Reproductive Justice? Share below in the comments section.

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