Reproductive Freedom: A Fight for Rights and Inclusion
Reproductive Freedom – A Human Right
Reproductive freedom, including access to birth control and safe abortion, is a human right. However, the fight for these rights has not always been successful.
Women-centered approaches place women at the heart of reproductive justice. Intersectionality theory and activism allow marginalised perspectives to be recognised and included. This allows for a more productive approach to reproductive rights.
What is Reproductive Rights?
Reproductive rights are the right to control one’s fertility, including deciding whether and when to have children. They also include the right to a healthy and satisfying sex life, free from violence.
Research on reproductive rights is often related to social movements that advocate for access to birth control and abortion. It also includes studies of public discourse on these issues and analyses of how laws and policies impact women’s lives.
For example, researchers study the effect of abortion bans on women’s ability to plan their families. They also look at the impact of laws on abortion providers, such as those that prohibit them from caring for patients whose states have banned their medical practices. These types of restrictions can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of women, especially marginalized communities.
Why are Reproductive Rights Important?
Deciding whether or not to have children, accessing abortion services when necessary, and receiving sex education and preventative health care are fundamental to women’s well-being. These rights are a cornerstone of an open society, upheld by international conventions and reflected in law worldwide.
When these rights are violated, people suffer. For example, when a 14-year-old girl is raped and can’t get an abortion, or when a Roma woman is sterilized without her knowledge as part of a eugenics movement based on racism and ethnic prejudice. Those who experience discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation are most at risk for having their reproductive rights infringed.
Reproductive rights advocacy groups across the world have expanded their focus from abortion, contraception and sterilization to include a broader range of issues including family planning, sex education, maternal mortality and infant mortality, and the relationship between reproductive health and economic status. These concerns are shared by Southern national and regional advocacy groups, as well as Southern academic and research initiatives.
What is the Role of Men in Reproductive Rights?
While the term “reproductive rights” is a relatively new one, there is growing recognition of the importance of women’s right to control their own reproductive choices. This right is enshrined in human rights documents, including the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
Maternal mortality and complications of pregnancy can be reduced through accessible and affordable health care services. However, there are often barriers that prevent access to these services, such as discrimination and a lack of priority given to women’s needs in the allocation of resources.
Men can also be significant contributors to these barriers, as they may influence a woman’s ability to navigate the contextual realities of abortion-related care. Research into the mechanisms, causes and intensions of men’s involvement in abortion trajectories can improve understanding of the factors that shape these contexts, and thus impact the ability of women, girls and pregnant people to exercise their fundamental right to autonomy. This is an important area for future research.
What is the Role of Women in Reproductive Rights?
In the context of human rights, reproductive rights are centered on women’s ability to decide whether and when to have children. Having access to family planning and contraception services allows women to avoid unintended pregnancy and to have more control over their lives, which is important for women’s socioeconomic status and well-being.
Governments that criminalize abortion or fail to provide access to necessary medical care during pregnancy and childbirth are failing in their obligations under international human rights treaties. Such violations of the right to choice in relation to reproduction are most severe for women from poor and marginalised communities.
In the broader field of geographic work on gender and sexuality, reproductive geographies are increasingly inspired by feminist, Black, and postcolonial theories to examine the uneven geometries of access to spaces that support reproductive choice. These new perspectives have led to a more nuanced framework of reproductive rights that moves beyond the ICPD’s original focus on abortion and contraception to include women’s needs and interests in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and menstruation.