Chair’s Statement on Reproductive Justice


A pregnant person’s right to choose whether to have, or not have, a child, and the right (and resources) to raise children in safe and healthy environments, are the fundamental principles of “reproductive justice.”

The Supreme Court ruling issued this morning (June 24, 2022) overturns the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that established a legal right nationwide for pregnant people to end their pregnancies up until fetal viability outside the womb. In the nearly 50 years since Roe v Wade, the right to abortion has become a central, polarizing issue in US political campaigns, intensifying and politicizing the debate around when human life “starts” and whether the embryo or fetus has a “right to life” that overrides the pregnant person’s right to make reproductive choices for themself. Already before this ruling, many states had erected legal obstacles to abortion access, and pregnant people in many parts of the country and many contexts were unable to exercise their legal right to abortion because access to abortion services was simply too expensive, too distant, or required too many approvals and steps. The burden of constraints on abortion have fallen, and will continue to fall, disproportionately on people with fewer resources: poor folks, BIPOC people, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, people with disabilities, and youth. These burdens include risk of maternal and child death, injury and illness; increased likelihood of poverty; disruptions of life, including educational pathways and avocational development; and increased vulnerability to violence. The impacts strike the pregnant person, the child, and the people who support them.

Reproductive Justice is central to the ethics embedded in the field of women, gender, and sexuality studies. As Department Chair, I believe it is important that we decry and reverse the misogynistic politicization of the very personal decision whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. The lessons we offer in GWS situate these issues in larger questions of power, social relations, and cultural meanings. This morning’s ruling is not the last word.

-Laura C. Nelson, Chair, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

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