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The Reproductive Justice (RJ) movement places reproductive health and rights within a social justice and human rights framework. The movement supports the right of individuals to have the children they want, raise the children they have, and plan their families through safe, legal access to abortion and contraception. In order to make these rights a reality, the movement recognizes that RJ will only be achieved when all people have the economic, social, and political power to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction.

Environmental Justice (EJ) seeks to reduce the inequitable environmental burdens borne by communities composed of people of color, indigenous groups, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice (RJ) share a common concern about the health of families and communities. Both EJ and RJ seek to improve the lives of disadvantaged women through education, empowerment and activism.

Environmental Pollution and Toxins Affect Reproductive Health

People of all income-brackets, job categories, races and locations are exposed to toxins.  Individuals may come into contact with toxins through the clothes they wear, food they consume, furniture they have, transportation they take, detergent they use or housing they inhabit. Toxic chemicals are a dangerous, but increasingly common, part of everyday life.

Because they are more likely to be low-wage workers, women and people of color are disproportionately exposed to many hazardous chemicals, including agricultural pesticides, home cleaning products, industrial cleaning products, and chemicals used in hair and nail salons. Studies suggest that exposure to certain chemicals can cause a host of reproductive health problems such as infertility and reproductive cancers in both men and women.  Greater exposure to chemicals may contribute to higher rates of birth defects, low-birth weight, still-birth and miscarriage for women of color.  Evidence suggests that exposure to certain toxic chemicals in both fetuses and young children can also cause developmental delays.

Since chemicals affecting individuals’ health can be passed along genetically, there is no blank slate. Our present generation suffers from the effects of chemicals to which our parents and grandparents were exposed.  Recent research shows the chemicals may permanently alter the genetic code, potentially affecting those generations far into the future.

EJ and RJ Share Common Goals

By endorsing the principles of Reproductive Justice—including the right to bear and raise children in healthy environments—you are advancing Environmental Justice.

Both RJ and EJ are concerned with the health and well-being of all people. They seek to improve socioeconomic conditions for those living in poverty and to provide a forum for traditionally marginalized communities to advocate on their own behalf.

Both EJ and RJ recognize the right of all people to reproductive health including the right of all women to have healthy pregnancies.   By seeking to eliminate the use of toxins that affect male and female fertility, increase risks during pregnancy and lead to birth defects, EJ protects reproductive health and safeguards healthy pregnancies.  Both EJ and RJ recognize the right of families to raise their children in a healthy environment and seek to protect individuals and families from dangerous chemicals in their homes, workplaces, schools and stores.

How You Can Support Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice

To protect yourself and future generations you can:

  • Support the right of women to decide to have the children they want, raise the children they have and plan their families in a healthy environment.
  • Recognize that women and children suffer unique effects of environmental hazards and advocate for policies that improve reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes.
  • Push for stricter regulation through legislation such as the Toxic Substances Control Act  that
    • Establishes health and safety testing
    • Bans the worst chemicals
    • And protects the most vulnerable.
  • Support the right of all parents to raise their children in healthy environments by advocating for the equitable distribution of green space, walking and biking trails, and playgrounds in low-income communities.
  • Urge regulatory protections and safer labor practices for those exposed to toxic chemicals in industries dominated by low-income workers and women of color. Protections ought to increase awareness of potential harms and inform workers of their rights without promoting employment discrimination against pregnant, potentially pregnant, or nursing women.

Published On: October 22, 2014Associated Issues: Connecting the IssuesEconomic AgendaHealth Care & Reproductive Rights