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Reproductive Justice

April 11th through 17th is the first ever Black Maternal Health Week, organized by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. This organization and week of awareness seeks to bring attention to the grave disparities between white and black maternal health care and mortality rates, such as the fact that black mothers are 3x more likely to die in childbirth than white ones in our country. 

The disparity is due to “an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism (that) can create a kind of toxic physiological stress,” as New York Times journalist

The following piece was graciously written for the Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum by my dear friend, mentor, and colleague Molly Dutton Kenny. Reproductive Justice, gender inclusivity, & the importance of trauma informed care are all topics covered in the “Cultivating Social Consciousness” module of my Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum.  This module is the 2nd of the course, directly after the introduction, in order to set a context and philosophical framework for all further learning.

Reproductive Justice

by Molly Dutton Kenny

Reproductive justice has been defined in many ways, including:

“Reproductive Justice is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”  ~ SisterSong www.sistersong.net

“…the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights. We believe Reproductive Justice exists when all people have the social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about our gender, bodies, sexuality and families for our selves and our communities” ~ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice

The hard work of intersectional, supportive care around a spectrum of reproduction has existed across communities, cultures and time. The term “Reproductive Justice” , or “RJ”, was specifically birthed by a group of Black women in the United States formed after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. This group called themselves the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice and laid the groundwork for a framework merging reproductive rights and social justice in the context of the United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration. The term and work that went along with it was later popularized by SisterSong, a national multi-ethnic, women-of-color organization formed to promote and support Reproductive Justice.

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Pregnancy Loss & Termination Are More Common Than You Might Think

I had support from a medical textbook editor finding the most accurate & current statistics possible for my Miscarriage & Abortion Support curriculum. Many of my students have been quite shocked to learn how common these experiences are.

Miscarriage & Abortion are normal & common.

People simply don’t talk about them openly or as often as they occur due to the shame & stigma they carry in our culture.

Take a look at the stats:

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A Call to Action for Fertility & Birth Professionals

The same people who offer professional care for culturally celebrated reproductive processes like trying to conceive, healthy pregnancy & birth have a responsibility to learn about miscarriage & abortion. I want to see miscarriage & abortion care added to the curriculum of certification & licensing programs of every modality of care provider who supports fertility & pregnancy.

These experiences are extremely common:

70% of conceptions die prior to live birth (1)

59.5% of people in the US who had abortions in 2014 were already parents. (2)

Even if birth doulas, midwives, OBs, fertility specialists & health coaches do not want to specialize in miscarriage & abortion care, they can better serve their patients & clients with a clear understanding of all types of pregnancy experiences, including loss & termination

This is because, as my midwifery teacher Elizabeth Davis frequently said,

“Every time you touch a woman, you touch everything that has happened to her there.”

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All Miscarriages Are Abortions

While colloquially speaking the term “abortion” is almost exclusively used to describe a pregnancy that is intentionally ended, the technical and medical meaning of this terminology is “removal of an embryo or fetus from the womb prior to its full development.” The technical term “abortion” does not define the mental or emotional process of the pregnant person in relationship to the contents of the womb, it simply means that the pregnancy has been released. Read more →

Miscarriage & Abortion Support Curriculum

Ending or losing a pregnancy deserves respect, community, support, and dialogue. Suffering and trauma are not inherent to these experiences: they are situational, subjective, and largely culturally inflicted. With holistic education and soulful support we can help alleviate undue suffering and nourish vital force through these transformational experiences.

The Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum I have created is for doulas, midwives, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, social service providers, and community advocates. This course was created to educate and  empower those who wish to nurture people through pregnancy loss and termination experiences with respect for the process of healing an integrated and whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

The content includes accessible anatomy and  physiology education, insight into a multitude of both spontaneous and deliberate pregnancy release processes, including first and second trimester losses, terminations by a variety of methods at all gestations, missed abortions, miscarriages, and others. The course is designed to help participants expand skills and knowledge by exploring a robust variety of options for holistic healing. Read more →