The Reproductive Justice Community Advisory Board
What is Reproductive Justice?
SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.[https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice]
The term Reproductive Justice (RJ) was coined in 1994 by a collective of Black women who were gathered in Chicago, right before attending the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. They named what countless women of color, indigenous women, and other marginalized women and transgender people had always been fighting for but was often unrecognized and ignored by the abortion-focused reproductive rights movements that centered white, middle-class women. Reproductive Justice is a human-rights based framework that seeks to understand and eradicate power systems, such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc. RJ addresses intersecting oppressions, acknowledging that marginalized women face multiple oppressions. RJ centers the most marginalized — working towards ensuring the most vulnerable people are able to access the resources and full human rights to live self-determined lives without fear, discrimination, or retaliation. SisterSong declares that to achieve Reproductive Justice, “we must join together across issues and identities. All oppressions impact our reproductive lives; RJ is simply human rights seen through the lens of the nuanced ways oppression impacts self-determined family creation. The intersectionality of RJ is both an opportunity and a call to come together as one movement with the power to win freedom for all oppressed people.”
SisterSong is a valuable resource to learn more about the history and vision of Reproductive Justice. We at Family Planning Elevated urge all who are involved in contraceptive access work to study the Reproductive Justice principles and framework, to give credit to RJ leaders, and to involve and support the RJ movement and leaders in the communities where contraceptive access work is being done.
What is the Utah Reproductive Justice Community Advisory Board?
The Utah Reproductive Justice Community Advisory Board, or RJCAB, was established in 2019 by Family Planning Elevated, a contraceptive initiative in Utah, to create a space where Utah-based RJ leaders and advocates could advise FPE on implementing community-centered and responsive contraceptive access programs.
Why was the RJCAB established?
Family Planning Elevated works to improve contraceptive access across the state of Utah. FPE believes it is imperative to include the voices and input of community members who may be impacted by our activities, including the Family Planning Elevated Contraceptive Access Program (FPE CAP). When working to improve access to contraceptive care in clinical and pharmacy spaces, we believe it is critical to ensure health care providers, staff and administrators are aware of the reproductive injustices that have disproportionately affected women of color, indigenous peoples, queer, transgender, and low-income people and Utahns who are undocumented. We facilitate opportunities for health care providers to interrogate their own biases and center the autonomy of the patient. We want FPE to be a program that is created for diverse communities, with diverse communities.
FPE established the RJCAB to better understand the needs and concerns of diverse communities in Utah, and to incorporate tackling these issues into FPE’s activities.
We partnered with RJ leaders in Utah to create the RJCAB, a group of individuals who FPE staff could learn from, support, and partner with to achieve shared goals.
In February 2019, FPE hosted a two-hour open-house at a community center where the public could come to learn about FPE and the RJCAB. We provided lunch in a casual setting and Spanish interpreters were available.
In partnership with RJ leaders, we created a simple application form in English and Spanish (through Google Forms) for interested individuals to complete online or on paper within two weeks of the open house. We explicitly stated that we were hoping to build the RJCAB with diverse members of the community who are often underrepresented, people of color, indigenous persons, immigrants, low-income women, queer and transgender individuals, people with disabilities and others minorities.
How does FPE support the RJCAB?
Supporting the RJCAB through compensation, meals, childcare and transportation assistance is a mandatory principle of FPE and we include RJCAB funding in all of our grant applications.
20 diverse individuals applied to be members of the RJCAB, and we accepted all 20. Among the applicants, we selected two co-chairs who expressed interest in RJCAB leadership positions. The co-chairs were women of color who had experience with community organizing and the RJ movement in Utah. One is bilingual in Spanish and would translate all RJCAB communications from English to Spanish.
In the application, members reported their availability, and we established a meeting schedule based on the day and time that worked for the most members. During the inaugural RJCAB year, members and FPE staff met on a Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. every other month (March, May, July, September, November) at a community center in Salt Lake City. Video conferencing was available for members who could not attend in person but wanted to participate.
We provide a catered, vegan lunch at every meeting, with plenty of leftovers for members to take home to their loved ones. Children are welcome in the space and FPE offers to cover childcare costs and members can request transportation assistance (an FPE staff member can give them a ride or call a rideshare for them).
The first hour of the meeting was spent eating lunch, going around the room for introductions, with names and pronouns (“I’m Kyl, I use she/her and they/them pronouns”… “I’m Lo, I use she/her/ella”…) followed by acknowledging the land and the indigenous peoples whose families and communities experienced violence from colonizers in the area in which we are meeting and living our lives. An indigenous member of RJCAB typically led this acknowledgement, and when they were unable to attend, an RJCAB co-chair would facilitate the acknowledgement.
We opened up the floor for anyone to share exciting news, or talk through something that had happened in their life.
In the remainder of the first hour, Kyl, FPE’s program director would bring an FPE-related topic to the RJCAB for input and feedback. For example, during one meeting, RJCAB reviewed the draft of FPE’s new website and offered edits and suggestions. During another meeting, a Utah state representative presented a resolution that the RJCAB members provided feedback on.
The second hour is dedicated to discussing what the RJCAB members want to talk about.
This has lead to discussions about how to best support the work of doulas of color, and finding a fiscal sponsor for the Utah Abortion Fund.
In the first year of the RJCAB we focused on creating a safe space where members could connect with each other and the FPE staff. We built a space of trust and communication. We sponsored five RJCAB members’ travel to the Society of Family Planning annual meeting and SisterSong’s Let’s Talk About Sex Conference. Now, in the start of 2020 we are assessing our first year and preparing for our second. We are looking forward to assessing what worked well and what we can improve upon to ensure the RJCAB is meaningful for members and that our reach extends beyond Salt Lake County, and across the rest of the state.
How Can I Get Involved with RJCAB?
If you are a Utah resident and passionate about Reproductive Justice and feel like you would be a good fit for the RJCAB, please fill out an application.
If you have the ability to donate money to help us compensate members or pay for a lunch for a meeting, every dollar helps us support the RJ movement in Utah and beyond.
For more information, we suggest exploring SisterSong.net and reading Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org