With Liberty and [Reproductive] Justice for All
Categories: Emergency Contraception, Reproductive Justice, Wellness Centers
July 29, 2015 — By Emily Rozema
As a relatively new and emerging framework, “Reproductive Justice” is a term that can be hard to grasp. Start by thinking of “Reproductive Health,” the wellbeing of the reproductive system. Next think of “Reproductive Rights,” the set of services and education to which we are legally entitled in order to maintain reproductive health. But in far too many cases, reproductive rights (and consequently reproductive health) come with barriers that keep them from serving their intended purpose. Thus, “Reproductive Justice” aims to break down these barriers. In short, reproductive justice means equity in the ability to exercise our reproductive rights, ultimately achieving reproductive health for all.
Having been interested in reproductive justice for a few years now, I am more than impressed with the role that The L.A. Trust is playing in this movement. A couple of years ago I was teaching sexual health in the small, rural town of Williams, AZ when a student came up to me after class and asked where he could get Plan B for his girlfriend. To this day, I am bothered by the fact that I could not come up with a reasonable answer. He could go to the one pharmacy in the one grocery store in town, but what if he didn’t have $50 to spend on it? Barrier. He could drive to the closest county clinic, but it was 40 miles away and he didn’t have a car. Barrier. He could ask his parents to buy it for her, but I knew that he came from a troubled home life. Barrier. So even though it was this young couple’s reproductive right to obtain Plan B in order to maintain reproductive health (i.e. preventing an unplanned teenage pregnancy), reproductive justice is missing here.
But move this scenario to an LAUSD high school with a wellness center, and the barriers disappear. The student and his girlfriend receive the Plan B pill on campus and free of charge, become educated on birth control options available on site, maybe even receive relationship counseling if necessary, and reproductive justice is served.
Of course, reproductive justice is about so much more than birth control on high school campuses. Reproductive justice means all people are empowered and able to choose the who, what, where, when, and why of their sexual experiences without coercion or judgment. It means people from all cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds are equally able to have the children they want, not have the children they don’t want, protect themselves from disease, and freely express their sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Achieving true reproductive justice is a task that will take a lot more time, social change, and hard work from people like us. But for now, I’m extremely proud to work for an organization that is setting a groundbreaking example of reproductive justice among our community’s youth.
Emily Rozema is a 2nd year Master of Public Health Student in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Community Health Sciences department. Her academic and professional interests include sexual/reproductive health as well as health education. This summer, Emily is developing several obesity prevention resources for wellness centers and drafting a public records request about utilization of sexual health services in wellness centers.