Young D.C. Residents Are in the Fight for Reproductive Justice

| Reproaction

By: Laila Salaam

On Friday, March 10, Reproaction joined forces with student activists from Choice Compass to host an educational event about reproductive justice at Maret High School in Washington, D.C. The students in the Maret Reproductive Rights Club had a well-rounded understanding of the definition of reproductive justice, and were eager to learn about how it directly intersected with other issues in their community. Reproductive Justice is defined as the human right to maintain bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parents the children we have in safe and healthy communities. [1] The presentation focused on a variety of reproductive justice issues that are particularly relevant in D.C. including maternal mortality, gentrification, and governmental restrictions.

While D.C. has maintained the nickname “Chocolate City” due to its sizable African-American population, Black people suffer the most negative consequences in reproductive health care here, as is true throughout most of the United States. Reproductive justice in D.C. and the lack of access to reproductive health services are closely tied to anti-Blackness. [2] Gentrification has played a significant role in the lack of reproductive health care access for Black residents of the District. In fact, D.C. experienced the most intense gentrification of any city in the country between the years 2000 and 2012. [3] This led to the rising cost of homes and the cultural displacement of local populations, which has only further segregated the different wards of the city. [4] Located east of the Anacostia River, ward 7 and 8 residents, who are primarily Black and brown people, comprise 70 percent of pregnancy related deaths in D.C., despite making up less than half of all birthing people in the city. [5]

The students were also surprised to learn about legal restrictions to abortion access in D.C., which is widely considered an abortion safe haven, but has been victimized by conservative meddling and racist control of the District’s government. The Dornan Amendment, which prevents D.C. from using Medicaid dollars to pay for abortion care, was an impactful example of this. [6] Initiatives like Dornan specifically diminish the power of Black and low-income populations in D.C. and leave the most vulnerable people at risk. The concerns about D.C.’s legal circumstances extend beyond the Dornan Amendment. Due to its lack of statehood, D.C. also does not have full control over its budget. Any budget measures, or other bills for that matter, that are decided upon by elected legislators in D.C. must be approved by Congress. This often leaves the fate of D.C. residents in the hands of politicians they did not elect. [7]

In addition to exposing students to the harsh realities impacting our reproductive lives in D.C., we still made sure to emphasize all of the access to abortion that exists in the District. It is important to remember that D.C. is a destination for people with capacity for pregnancy traveling throughout the country to receive essential abortion care. Notably in D.C. abortion is legal during any gestational age of pregnancy, parental involvement is not required for a minor to get an abortion, and there is no waiting period to receive abortion care. [8] For now. But recent attacks on D.C.’s autonomy in lawmaking could spell danger for more of our rights. [9]

Reproductive Justice is an impactful framework created by Black women decades ago, and it is important to identify all areas to which it can be applied, especially when it comes to our communities. Reproaction is honored to be able to educate others about the intersections that exist in reproductive justice work and advance the cause of reproductive justice.

You can help us continue to educate people on reproductive justice issues by participating in upcoming events, joining our email list, and following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As always, your donations help us advance reproductive justice, so give what you can if you can!


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