It reminded me of Loretta Ross, the National Coordinator of SisterSong, who I saw speak in Charlottesville last year during the Festival of the Book. SisterSong is a women of color reproductive justice organization. Here's how they described themselves:
The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective is a network of local, regional and nation grassroots agencies representing five primary ethnic populations/indigenous nations in the United States:
- African American
- Arab American/Middle Eastern
- Asian/Pacific Islander
- Native American/Indigenous
When Ross came to speak in Charlottesville last year one of the topic she touched on was SisterSong's involvement in the 2004 March for Women's Lives. Until they had become involved the march was called "March for Choice," but one of the conditions of SisterSong's involvement, Ross explained, was the name change. I remember feeling disappointed when I heard about the name change, because I thought it was about diluting what was to me, the primary issue, abortion rights.
My feelings at that time epitomize why the name change was necessary. To me, and to many Americans, pro-choice had become synonymous with being pro-choice about abortion (focusing on the right to choose to have or not to have an abortion). By changing the name to "March for Women's Lives" and by using the phrase "reproductive justice" SisterSong hopes to reconnect and recognize the links between abortion rights to other social justice issues and to other reproductive issues.
Reproductive Justice, as defined by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (an original founding member oranization of SisterSong) 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.
In their extremely interesting Funders Briefing Report from 2005 (seriously, read it; it's not that long and it's great), SisterSong explains that the Reproductive Justice framework "spells out affirmative obligations that the government has to ensure the necessary social support for our decisions." (p. 2)
From the perspective of SisterSong, one of the key problems we collectively face is the isolation of abortion from other social justice issues that concern all communities. Abortion isolated from other social justice/human rights issues neglects issues of economic justice, the environment, criminal justice, immigrants’ rights, militarism, discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, and a host of other concerns directly affecting an individual woman’s decision making process. Moreover, support for abortion rights is even frequently isolated from other reproductive health issues. We believe that the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is directly linked to the conditions in her community and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access. (pg. 3)