In the early '90s a group of women of color came together to caucus at a primarily white pro-choice conference here in Chicago. Obviously abortion was the theme and primary agenda.
Abortion legalized in 1973 ensured that a woman had the right to determine whether she wanted to parent or not. Yet, in the '90s most women impacted by the restrictive reproductive laws were some of the most vulnerable and marginalized in society. Clearly the fight to keep abortion legal was not working for many. Being legal did not ensure that poor women could access this right.
This is why those forward-thinking women activists took it upon themselves to step outside the silo of the pro-choice movement. These women knew even then that focusing on a single-frame issue was not the answer to the underlying questions and concerns of many women's lives. Fighting for one's right to have an abortion yet ignoring the systemic and structural issues that intersect and contribute to a poor person's inability to pay for a legal procedure was an injustice. It is a privileged mindset at work. Needless to say that meeting in the '90s was sorely needed.
Gaylon B. Alcaraz is the former Executive Director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, a community organizer and staunch reproductive justice advocate. You can follow her on twitter @gaylonalcaraz and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
What they came away with was Reproductive Rights + Social Justice. This idea merged the Human Rights Declaration, social justice principles and reproductive rights into a framework that recognizes these basic tenements:
The ability to terminate a pregnancy
The ability to carry a pregnancy to term; and
The ability to parent the children you have without governmental interference
However, there is much more to this framework than meets the eye.
"Reproductive Justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives."
This is why youth homelessness is a reproductive justice issue and why reproductive justice is an important framework. It encompasses all individuals as they demand their right to full autonomy. You cannot have full autonomy if you do not have your basic needs met. You cannot control the body you live in if you are homeless on the street. Affordable and accessible housing is crucial to healthy and fulfilling lives.
It is in this ideology that we, as a society, should not only believe but fight for the basic rights for all human beings. The lack of housing, food, quality education, safety, healthcare and choice are injustices that are ignored. Without these basic needs many fall thru the cracks and are exposed to the dangerous elements that lurk around the most vulnerable. All these injustices affect a person's reproductive health.
Anytime a young person finds themselves without stable housing they are in danger of being victimized or sexually assaulted. Without adequate support and stability it is hard to have a healthy life. That is why being homeless is a reproductive justice issue. When we broaden our view of how so many injustices impact the lives we live, we can see and understand why the fight for reproductive justice is a critical component to changing the systems. Dismantling the problem at the core is the only way to go.
Help a young person with stable housing today. Their reproductive lives are at stake. Support The 750 Club Apartment Adoption Project. It seeks to provide private apartments for youth moving out of transition housing. We have a responsibility to give back and make the world a better place for us all.
See tinyurl.com/ApartmentAdopt .
Wikipedia: Reproductive Justice en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_justice .