Incorporating a Reproductive Justice Framework: A Reform Jewish Issue
For nearly 85 years, Women of Reform Judaism has been a leading advocate for reproductive rights and health, adopting more than a dozen resolutions affirming a strong and vocal stance and mobilizing its members to speak out for the rights of women to exercise moral authority over their own bodies. WRJ was among the first in our Movement to call for access to information about contraception in 1935 and for abortion reform in 1965.
On the matter of abortion, WRJ stated: “We believe that the right to choose on the matter of abortions is a personal decision based on religious, moral or cultural values and beliefs; it should not be determined for others by special interest groups whether religious or otherwise, nor should government be the enforcing agency for their points of view” (Women’s Rights, 1977).
Similarly, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), and other Reform Movement affiliates have long supported a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health according to her own beliefs.
Prior to Roe v. Wade, the Reform Movement cited a “moral imperative to modernize abortion legislation,” lamenting that “illegal abortions yearly take a tragic and needless toll” (Abortion Reform, 1967). When Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the Union for Reform Judaism applauded the decision and issued a resolution opposing government restrictions that would limit access to abortion services (Abortion, 1975 & Free Choice in Abortion, 1981).
In the decades following this landmark court decision, there have been countless attempts to erode the constitutional right to an abortion on both a federal and state-wide level. While Roe continues to be the law of the land, subsequent court decisions, federal laws, and state restrictions have made abortion inaccessible, unaffordable, and out of reach for millions of Americans. It is not enough to focus on reproductive rights alone.
This is why the Reform Movement is committed to working in solidarity with leaders in marginalized communities to root our reproductive health and rights work in a reproductive justice framework.
Through a reproductive justice framework, we know that focusing on the legal right to an abortion is an empty promise if those seeking abortion care cannot access it due to cost, geographic location, or other societal barriers.
Through a reproductive justice framework, we are compelled to advocate for accessible and affordable family planning services, which can disrupt generational cycles of poverty and prevent preventable maternal and infant deaths.
Through a reproductive justice framework, we see the critical need for comprehensive sexuality education, empowering people to make informed decisions about their bodies, sexual activity, and futures.
To learn more about the origins of the Reproductive Justice Movement and the current work that leaders of the Movement are leading on, visit SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.