Updated: Sep 17
On Friday, June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court made the verdict to overturn Roe v. Wade. This decision instantly triggered many abortion bans throughout the nation, dangerously impacting many marginalized communities. But what does this impact entail and how do we combat it? As it is, conversations about reproductive justice are incredibly censored and the ones who end up suffering for it are the upcoming generations.
Reproductive justice is the combined heart of many issues, and unlike what many assume, it does not only address the choice of choosing to birth a child. In fact, having the ability to make a choice on whether or not to deliver a child is only the foundational idea of the movement. The term “reproductive justice” was initially coined in 1994 by a group of Black women activists who believed in the necessity of integrating reproductive rights into the wider social justice structure. They argued that reproductive rights affected many different communities and went hand in hand with other movements against racism, economic inequality, climate change, homophobia, and transphobia. An often highlighted example is how even if contraception and abortion were made legal at this very second, access to it would still be incredibly difficult for those who are on the lower end of the spectrum economically and in other marginalized communities. This is the reason as to why it pertains to so many people and why you should care. Reproductive justice is the fight for having the ability to not only choose to have a child, but to use that choice to bring up said child in a healthy and safe environment. Reproductive justice means that the new generation would grow up in a better environment where they are safe from violence and are able to unlock their full potential.
Which is the exact reason why conversations about reproductive justice are so important in our classrooms.
Without the proper knowledge about sexual health and reproduction, children will grow up not knowing the vast effects of what their choices could entail. According to the UN, Comprehensive Sexual Education - or CSE - is crucial in improving sexual and reproductive health as well as helping the younger generation make informed decisions. However, as it stands in the US, sexual health is only taught thrice during their entire school career. Once during 5th or 6th grade, once in middle school, and once in high school. According to Senior Programme Specialist in Health Education at UNESCO Joanna Herat, “Young people are consequently often denied even the most basic information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights”. Moreover, with the overturning of Roe v.Wade, the fight for reproductive justice has been forced another step back, leading to resources that are used to educate becoming more scarce and harder to teach. How does one help a 16-year-old and give them the support they need if they do not wish to have a child when abortion is illegal in their state? What answer can you give them?
Nevertheless, there has been a major outcry for more to be done in recent years, leading to a major upscale in the quality and quantity of education given to the younger generation. Reproductive rights are often at the forefront of the conversation for many youth and the fight for abortion rights and many other issues have become stronger than ever. Engaging the youth is the first step towards fighting for our rights and education is the path to doing so. By encouraging comprehensive and informative sexual education, classrooms become a safer space for children and the pressure they feel will lessen by a significant amount. It is known that without the correct information, the frequency of unsafe procedures skyrockets, and the safety of our children is at great risk. Teaching them about bodily autonomy is crucial to their well-being, and we need to ensure that we clearly communicate the facts and the science behind the entire procedure. It has been proven that by improving the curriculum on sexual and reproductive health, there is a significant reduction in sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unwanted pregnancy. Condom usage increases and exploring teens are aware of the resources that are available to them should they need guidance, allowing them to have a healthier relationship with sexual behavior as a whole.
Yet it should be acknowledged that the curriculum, which is not only being taught to children but also generally broadcast to the rest of the public, is in need of improvement. Much of the curriculum based around reproductive justice focuses on a person’s reproductive rights and what they can choose to do if they are pregnant. This leads to many of those who are involved in the fight for reproductive justice narrowing the whole cause down into the pro-choice/pro-life debate, and while it is important to acknowledge how vital abortion rights are to the fight for reproductive justice, it does not represent the entire issue. In fact, there are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed, and without that being an established fact, the whole movement can become easily misconstrued, even by those who wish to help.
People will not do anything unless you inspire them.
Curriculums should shift to integrating personal experiences along with introducing concepts of reproductive justice. Without understanding, there can be no conversation and we can incite exchange by allowing students to see how it would affect their personal lives. While it is true that the US is quite ahead in their curriculum when addressing the reproductive system, much of the political aspects that are associated with it are taught in an impersonal manner, leading students to believe that the issue does not pertain to them when it does. Reproductive matters affect everybody. Without this sentiment being clearly communicated, the whole message of reproductive justice can easily be lost.
Knowledge is power and we should do all that we can to ensure that accurate knowledge is spread. Willful ignorance is not the solution.
“Global Review Finds Comprehensive Sexuality Education Key to Gender Equality
and Reproductive Health.” United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2016/03/comprehensive-sexuality-education/.
“Reproductive Justice and Our Classrooms.” Rethinking Schools, 14 July 2022,
“Reproductive Justice Needs to Start In the Classroom and Beyond.” Health
“Reproductive Rights/Reproductive Justice Lesson Plan.” Global Feminisms Project,
“Why Reproductive Justice Is a Model for Intersectional Activism.” Open Society
Foundations, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/how- reproductive-justice-serves-model-progressive-organizing#:~:text=The%20term%20%E2%80%9Creproductive%20justice%E2%80%9D%20was,a%20broader%20social%20justice%20framework.