I’m not “pro-choice”.
Since I was exposed to and am learning more about the reproductive justice framework, I can’t call myself “pro-choice” in good conscience. I am supportive of access to and acceptance of abortion for any reason, at any time, for any person. I guess this would be sufficient in calling myself “pro-choice” according to the standards of the larger community, but abortion is only a piece of the larger reproductive justice framework, developed by women of color activists at SisterSong, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, and other related groups (like the one I work for, Oklahomans for Reproductive Justice!).
Those working on issues related to the oppression and exploitation of nonhuman animals know the limitations of welfare and rights based critiques. We can agree it is not enough to treat some animals better before we slaughter them, or philosophize from our armchairs about the “property status of animals” within the law. As those dedicated to animal liberation know, the answer comes from recognizing how nonhumans are exploited and abused by species-privilege and attacking the specific ways capitalism and other forms of power and privilege perpetuate these social ills. A question of liberation, rather than rights, addresses this issue at its root rather than the concerns of the most privileged.
It’s not enough to talk about “right to abortion” because that only allows us to examine one fraction of one piece of the puzzle. Indeed, many people are allowed the right to an abortion under law, but income, race, gender and region (among other factors) can severely limit one’s access to abortion, which renders the right nearly meaningless as it stands on the books. With the rights of clinics and providers being whittled away, and funding stripped from organizations that would provide holistic care to underserved communities, the bigger problem begs for a much more comprehensive answer; that’s why reproductive justice as a model makes the most sense strategically and theoretically.
Because reproductive justice models surfaced from collaborative work among communities of color, it critiques the white- and ciswoman- centric policy, education, and activism that dominates the US political landscape (in addition to other regions of the world). SisterSong, a network of grassroots organizations that amplifies the voices of women of color in the US for reproductive justice education and action, outlines the specific distinctions between historically pro-choice movements and why focusing on reproductive justice is vital:
“One of the key problems addressed by Reproductive Justice is the isolation of abortion from other social justice issues that concern communities of color: issues of economic justice, the environment, immigrants’ rights, disability rights, discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, and a host of other community-centered concerns. These issues directly affect an individual woman’s decision-making process. By shifting the focus to reproductive oppression—the control and exploitation of women, girls, and individuals through our bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction—rather than a narrow focus on protecting the legal right to abortion, SisterSong is developing a more inclusive vision of how to build a new movement.”
-SisterSong, Why Is Reproductive Justice Important for Women of Color?
Building solidarity for an inclusive movement means something specific for nonhuman animal and earth activists. When we launch critique of human communities for abuse of the earth’s resources it’s never as simple as we would like it to be; being critical of people and the children that they choose (or choose not) to have may be ignoring and erasing systems of reproductive coercion and manipulation like state-sanctioned sterilization, environmental racism, exploitation of labor and family labor, inadequate sexual health education, physical and sexual abuse, violence against and ignorance of trans* bodies and identities, rendering queers invisible through compulsory heterosexuality and gender conformity, etc.
We all have a lot to gain from reproductive justice perspectives and de-centering whiteness in our reproductive issues activism. If an event in your area is taking action or educating about reproductive issues, like protesting the shackling and physical restraint of pregnant inmates during labor at correctional facilities, or organizing a phone tree to keep programs like WIC (Women, Infants, Children) and TANF funded, finding communal sources of funding for low-income trans* people to receive medical care, or helping groups document cases of forced or coercive sterilization of Indigenous people, then stand up! Educate yourself, show up, and become involved in a collective struggle to liberate everyone from reproductive oppression.