30th Anniversary of RJ

At the height of Health Care Reform during the Clinton administration in 1994, Black women gathered in Chicago, IL to discuss the impact of this legislation on their lives and their communities. These women understood that they possessed the ability of understanding and relating to the lived experience of the communities that historically had been left out discussions on health care or unable to access health care services. These women also understood that because of the mainstream movement’s inability to fully access and advocate for the needs of marginalized communities, that they needed to craft a national response that summarized what was at stake for Black women and that held legislators accountable for making the right decision on behalf of Black women and their families. These women knew that it was imperative for reproductive healthcare - which includes abortion access - to be centered in the national conversation on healthcare reform. These women collectively decided to call themselves, Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice - thus birthing the term that has now become a movement. 

On August 16, 1994, after deep organizing, the newly maned collective released a full-page signature ad that ran in the Washington Post and Roll Call entitled “Black Women on Healthcare Reform”. The statement included more than 800 signatures of support. They also wrote a letter of support for David Sacher - the incoming surgeon general appointed by President Clinton. 

The term Reproductive Justice laid dormant until Loretta Ross, founding National Coordinator of SisterSong, revived it at SisterSong's national conference in 2003. The women of color reproductive health and rights field embraced the term and subsequently SisterSong used it as its organizing framework. 

Reproductive Justice has achieved major successes in 30 years and has shifted the culture of the traditional reproductive rights and health field. It has mainstreamed a human rights and social justice framework. These are not merely shifts in nomenclature or language but shifts in understandings and engagement. RJ has helped the field understand how forms of oppression in the reproductive politics of the U.S. are gendered, sexualized and racialized. In addition, the RJ framework has elevated the leadership of BIPOC leaders across the country.  

Reproductive Justice is, essentially, a framework about power. It allows us to analyze the intersectional forces arrayed to deny human rights, and it also enables us to determine how to work together across barriers to achieve the necessary power to protect and achieve human rights for all. We cannot change the systemic reproductive injustices we face only as individuals, but we must work together in tandem in unbreakable alliances that center our lives as the lens through which we theorize, strategize and organize.

We can't wait to share more of the timeline of our movement at the Let's Talk About Sex Conference in DC.

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