Reproductive Justice is defined as a social justice movement rooted in the belief that individuals and communities should have the resources and power to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about their bodies, genders, sexualities, and lives. Reproductive justice is very important to Day of the Girl. We believe that any restrictions made on a woman’s or girl’s right to control their own body is a violation of a basic human right. Girls must be allowed to feel free and in command of the skin they live in without facing sexual stigmatization for whatever their choices may be. One of the ways in which Day of the Girl has actively stood up for women’s rights is our endorsement of the EACH Woman Act. You can learn more about that here.
The controversial debate on contraceptive - or birth control - access is receiving an increasing amount of attention throughout the nation and for good reason. There are a multitude of tools and procedures in existence to prevent women from having to face an unintended pregnancy, yet it is a constant struggle to obtain them. As a result, the United States possesses a noticeably higher rate of unintended pregnancies than most developed nations, with 49% of pregnancies being unplanned. These women must then take on the task of making the life altering and stressful decision of whether or not to keep the baby This dilemma is even more heartbreaking when considering the number of teenagers, young girls with their whole lives ahead of them, who fall victim to unplanned pregnancy, not because they were irresponsible, but because contraceptives were inaccessible, and their sexual education curriculum provided insufficient knowledge of sexual health.
Comprehensive Sex Education
The old fashioned way of teaching children about sex by scaring them out of it has evidently failed. Teaching prevention without knowledge leads to uninformed children who take on the task of teaching themselves, which often leads to unsafe sex and permanent consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Nearly half of minors are sexually active before reaching legal adulthood. So instead of wasting time lecturing on “the evils of sex” to children who are unlikely to listen, a sex positive approach should be taken.
Comprehensive sexual education teaches that abstinence is the best way to avoid STDs and unplanned pregnancy, but also informs students on the proper use of contraceptives and the process of having safe sex to decrease chances of STDs and pregnancy. Sex positive is the philosophy that all sex is acceptable as long as it is healthy and consensual, meaning that all parties participating in any sexual act are willing to do so. When the focus is not on prevention, it is on safety, and there is a difference. Day of the Girl - US has announced a sexual education reform project. If you wish to bring comprehensive sex education to your school you can learn more here. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, abstinence-only education is to blame for an extreme knowledge deficit hampering the benefits of contraceptives. Young people are going out into the world with misunderstandings about how contraceptives work and in doing so, refrain from using them. Therefore, minors continue to have sex without the use of contraceptives, putting them a noticeably higher risk for unplanned pregnancies.
Want to become involved in the fight for comprehensive sexual health education at your school, county, or state? Check out our Sexual Education Reform Project and join the movement!
Contraceptive Access for Minors
Furthermore, for those who are aware of contraceptives, the process of procuring them is an additional struggle in a variety of states due to the fact that contraceptive access for minors is limited. Although some people believe that making contraceptives accessible would only encourage underage sexual activity, the fact is: inaccessibility does not discourage it. The United States’ exceptionally high rate of teen pregnancy is a result of less contraceptive use. In fact, 1 in 5 minors who have access to contraceptives without the knowledge of their parents report that if they needed parental consent in order to obtain contraceptives, they would continue to have sex without them. Therefore, in order to decrease teen pregnancies and give more girls a chance at achieving their full potential, they must be given the tools to protect themselves from the risks of sexual activity . After all, their bodies belong to them and what they do with them is their decision. Why should sexual health be a crime?
Only 21 states allow minors full access to contraceptives and services without parental consent.
25 states permit minors to obtain contraceptives under specific circumstances:
3 states require a physician to provide evidence contraceptives necessary due to a health hazard
21 states allow married minors to consent
6 states allow minors who are already parents to consent
11 states’ requirements include: being a high school graduate, reaching a minimum age, demonstrating maturity or receiving a referral from a specified professional, such as a physician or member of the clergy
4 states have no policy in relation to the issue
Deciding whether or not to keep a baby is one of the toughest decisions a woman can make, but it is her decision and her say. Unfortunately, a woman’s right to choose is under attack by many of our nation’s politicians. An abortion is a health decision and a life decision. Government interference is a violation of a woman’s right to control her own body and her entire life. A recent report from the United Nations revealed that the United States trails behind the rest of the world in regards to women’s rights, and these attacks on women’s health are a clear indication of their accuracy.
Additionally, for the women who are able to access abortion they face the next struggle of being able to afford it. As of now, the Affordable Care Act has vague rules in regards to abortion, therefore, allowing some procedures to be funded, yet anti abortion policy makers continue to threaten it.Other government restrictions, such as the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding of any abortion that is not the result of a violation or a threat to health, are already in effect. The fact is all women should have access to insurance, and their insurance must cover abortion procedures. It is imperative that women are allowed to not only make their decision but also follow through with it.
When a young woman is in need of an abortion, it is exceedingly difficult to obtain. Over half of US states require parental consent or parental notice. As teenagers, these girls can find being forced to share this information uncomfortable and demeaning. This situation also poses safety concerns relating to abusive parents or unsafe home environments.
A pregnancy is an emotionally, financially, socially, and physically tolling experience. It is unjust to force any individual into one.
Pregnant and Parenting Teens
Among teenagers who face unplanned pregnancy, not all of them wish to abort, and as long as it is their decision, they should be able to do so. Sadly, these girls often face unfair stigmatism from their communities. Approximately 70% drop out of school due to illegal encouragement to do so by their school administrations.
Title IX protects pregnant and parenting teens from the denial of an education, yet schools frequently exclude these students. It is important that young girls are aware of these rights, so that if they are ever infringed upon, they can defend themselves.
Going into the world as a teen parent is also a frightening endeavor at this time. Society is filled with negative thoughts and shaming directed at these young people. The stigma must be erased so that these girls have access to the rights such as education and healthcare so that their families may develop.
URGE - Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality
Strong Families - dedicated to supporting ALL kinds of families in need
Advocates for Youth - partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth
Planned Parenthood Action - devoted to promoting Planned Parenthood, a non-profit for women’s health
NARAL Pro-Choice America - pro-choice men and women working for expansion and protection of reproductive freedom
New York Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Rights Project - booklet on the rights of teen parents
Does your school teach comprehensive sex education? If not, talk to administration and see if you can establish a new curriculum with Day of the Girl’s Sexual Education Reform Project.
- Advocate for progressive reproductive justice policies in your community, using reports like the Planned Parenthood 2016 Congressional Scorecard, NARAL's Who Decides? reports, or URGE's factsheets for reference - or, do your own research!
Fight the stigma of teen pregnancy. Refrain from using degrading language and discourage others. Be sure to explain the importance of their tolerance and the impact of their words.
Publicize your support for reproductive justice on social media - one great way is to join All Above All's movement to repeal the Hyde Amendment! Share your selfie with them to show how diverse and robust the reproductive justice movement is.
- If you feel brave enough, volunteer to be a clinic escort. Clinic escorts walk with individuals entering and exiting abortion clinics to ensure their safety because of surrounding, threatening protestors. Look up your local abortion clinics and see if they are in need of escorts!
By Blythe D (17), 2016