The Tyranny of Reproductive “Justice”

Ever since Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke received her fifteen minutes of fame a few years back at the congressional hearings on the Affordable Care Act, we’ve been hearing a lot about “reproductive justice.”

It’s a rather queer pairing of words, don’t you think? For what does justice have to do with a basic biological function, and if reproductive justice, why not respirative, digestive, or cardio-vascular justice? All of which should prompt us to ask, “What does it matter?”

SisterSong, a self-described women-of-color advocacy group that is credited with coining the phrase, explains,

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Reproductive justice [is] the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments … based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life.

Hmm. Where is the right to have children, or not, a problem, outside of China with its “one-child” policy? Certainly not in the U.S. where a 40-percent birth rate to unwed mothers is evidence that neither marital status, church teaching, nor social stigma is a barrier to those “personal decisions about one’s life.”

What’s more, as one million abortions per year attests, even a woman who is carrying a child doesn’t need to bear it if she doesn’t want to—and this includes pregnant minors who can so decide, free from parental permission or notification.

What About…
Conspicuously absent from the “cause” is any mention of the other essential party in reproduction: men. For instance, SisterSong goes on to say that “the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color (emphasis added).” But not for men, or, at least, men of color?

What about the injustice to the father who has no legal recourse to oppose his girlfriend’s or wife’s decision to abort his child? What about the gender bias in a court system that awards child custody preferentially to mothers, even in cases where real differences in parental fitness and ability are documented? What about a health care law that requires women’s, but not men’s, contraception services to be provided free of charge?

True justice requires that if one party in the reproduction process is owed a duty, so is the other. Applying “reproductive justice” exclusively to the “rights” of women is like applying criminal justice only to the rights of plaintiffs and not defendants, or vice versa.

Then there’s the part about “obligation of government and society.” What about personal obligation? You know, the responsibility of individuals to control their passions and behaviors for their good and that of society, with particular concern, in this case, for those born, those waiting to be born, and those who could be born. Again, the “cause” is silent.

What it is not silent about is the desire for sexual expression unencumbered by personal consequences and cost. While the intent of ACA is to unburden women from the costs and consequences of their “personal decisions about life,” the “cause” aims to free them from the shame of those decisions as well.

Consequence-Free Sex
A is for…, is a reproductive justice movement “challenging the traditional meaning of the scarlet letter by encouraging women, and the men who support them, to wear the A proudly.” (Men, it will be noted, are referenced only in the context of supporting the decisions of the women in their lives.)

Their inspiration comes from “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional heroine … Hester Prynne,” a woman who, as they put it, was “branded by her fellows for daring to live a life according to her own conscience.”

This means that a married woman who commits adultery and has another man’s child is not immoral, impious, or even imprudent; she’s heroic for following her own moral lights. This brings calling good evil and evil good to a whole new level.

A is for… parallels the tasteless “I had an abortion” t-shirt drive started by Jennifer Baumgardner and promoted by Planned Parenthood. According to Glora Feldt of PP, the purpose of the t-shirt is “to challenge the silence and shame” surrounding abortion—shame that, as some have claimed:

“We’re called ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes.’”
I’m with you here—name-calling, and those who do it, are wrong.

“We’re told to put an aspirin between our legs.”
Well, if you’re unmarried or not ready for children or other “consequences,” it’s a sure-fire method—in fact, the surest.

“We’re made to believe that it’s our ignorance, and not our experience, that drives our desire for autonomy and freedom from forced procreation.”
Now, just who is it that’s forcing you to procreate? I’m ready to take names.

“We’re lectured that we shouldn’t have had sex in the first place, as if sex were not a natural aspect of our humanity that we have every right to express.”
You’re right, sex is a natural part of our humanness—but more than that, it is essential, not because it serves to satisfy our sensual desires, but because without it, the human race would quickly join the ranks of endangered species.

“We’re told we must face the ‘consequences’ of our sexual actions, as if we weren’t already painfully aware of the consequences of life without contraception, having lived, and died, without it for centuries.”
You want freedom from personal consequences, not by restricting your sexual behaviors, but by “protections” paid for by others. Got it.

A is for… is proud to stand on the frontlines of what it calls an “aggressive legislative assault” on women’s health and freedom in the form of “personhood bills” and such. Yes, laws aimed at protecting the unborn are an inconvenience to a woman seeking unfettered sexual freedom, but an assault on her health? Really?

Even the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute admits that only four percent of abortions involve any concern over maternal health. As I’ve argued before, even in those cases, if a mother is willing, as nearly all mothers are, to assume personal health risk for the welfare of her post-partum child, how could she deny her enwombed child the same consideration? The child in both instances is a genetically complete and unique human being; they differ only in stage of development, as a newborn from a toddler, a toddler from a teen, and a teen from an adult.

If you’ve been wondering what the A stands for, the movement doesn’t say. The promoters leave that to you to decide. Some words that occur to me: arrogant, autocratic, appalling, and abominable. Too harsh? I don’t think so.

When others are forced to pay for protecting me against consequences I find undesirable for behaviors I’ve willingly chosen, it’s robbery.

When my “right” to free sexual expression overrides someone else’s right to free religious exercise, it’s religious oppression.

When a mother’s autonomy over her body trumps the right to life of the child in her body, it’s pedicide.

When such things are done in the name of “justice,” it is not justice, but tyranny.

(Photo credit: Jonah McKeown / CNA)


  • Regis Nicoll

    Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

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