During this month of March, “Woman’s History Month,” an important international meeting took place at the United Nations in New York City: the Commission on the Status of Women. This Commission marked the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Countries’ delegates and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met to assess what has been achieved since the Beijing Conference in 1995, and to identify priority actions in moving forward.
The CSW ended last week, but the question remains: Did the CSW promote real reproductive justice for women? To answer this question, a better understanding of the phrase “reproductive justice” is necessary.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) emphasizes that reproductive justice is particularly linked to reproductive rights, which they claim encompasses the right to abortion and the right to family planning. NOW and many like-minded organizations believe that women will only be free when they are able to access a “full range of health services,” including abortion. “Only then,” NOW’s website relays, “can women take full control of their bodies and their lives.”
Pro-choice advocates’ understanding of “reproductive justice” denies femininity and undermines authentic womanhood. They are convinced that a woman will not fully attain success until she has control over her fertility and legally protected access to abortion.
A “reproductive justice” that demands access to abortion provides no legitimate framework to establish justice for women. Abortion, whether legal or illegal, remains a procedure that, in addition to killing another human life, severely and irreversibly injures the woman on physical, psychological, and emotional levels. Abortion brings neither justice nor freedom, but sets up a false dichotomy between the woman and her fertility.
Real reproductive justice affirms the woman in the fullness of her vocation as a woman. It encourages the woman in her sacrifices and safeguards her overall well-being. A woman’s irreplaceable qualities, as well as her unique ability to give and nurture new life, must not be sacrificed for the demands of the work place; rather, society and the work place must support the woman in her every role.
Regrettably, many attending the CSW failed to promote real reproductive justice. The CSW, under the pretext of empowering the woman and improving her life, primarily focused on resolutions that undermine her inherent dignity. In written statements distributed on the official CSW conference website, a coalition of abortion rights groups calls on “governments, multilateral organizations, donor agencies and civil society groups to incorporate full reproductive rights, including access to safe legal abortions, into their advocacy for women’s rights.”
Member states battled for two weeks over the language included in various resolutions, particularly the maternal mortality resolution, introduced by the United States. The United States worked to guarantee all of women’s human rights, “including sexual and reproductive health rights,” which, according to the current U.S. administration, includes access to abortion. Some countries, including Poland, Chile, Iran, and Saint Lucia, made reservations to ensure that “reproductive rights” and other “health services” would not be later misinterpreted to include abortion.
In conclusion, true reproductive justice is achieved when a woman is respected and appreciated for her femininity and unique qualities. In order for next year’s CSW to successfully promote real reproductive justice, countries must convey that real reproductive justice embraces the entire woman, including her procreative abilities. Governments and activists must propose life affirming healthcare options, better support systems for poor women and their families, and greater assistance to young and single mothers. In this way, authentic reproductive justice that lauds the courage, nobility, and sacrifices women make will be advanced.