- Reproductive Justice and (the Politics of) Transnational Gestational Surrogacy
The term reproductive justice was coined in 1994 by black feminists. As a concept, it moves the center of attention and activism away from reproductive rights and the narrow focus on pro-choice (the legal right to abortion, symbolized by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade) both toward an intersectional analysis of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and age, and toward activism for enhanced public resources and governmental spending, especially when it comes to comprehensive (reproductive) health care, jobs and wages, education and child care, housing, civil rights and social services—after all, what good is the legal right to abortion when you cannot afford it, because your wages are low and/or you do not have access to health care, for instance, because you do not have insurance or you belong to the 8.2 percent of all [End Page 889] American women who live in rural counties with no ob-gyn near or far, or in one of twenty-three states with TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers)?1 What about a meaningful right to have a child? What would it take to ensure that everyone who does not want to terminate a pregnancy has the ability to raise that child, free from state violence and with the expectation of housing, education, and enough to eat? To frame reproductive rights as a negative right—freedom from governmental interference—leads to an understanding of reproductive health as a domain of personal responsibility and "free choice." And this not only eclipses the socioeconomic, political, and legal realities within which "free choice" can allegedly be exercised but also occludes the view on neoliberal policies of the last decades that have fostered racialized poverty and structural inequality. To broaden the scope of reproductive rights, reproductive justice advocates center their argument on human rights and social justice, and move away from issue silos by employing an intersectional approach.
Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger have written an excellent introduction to both the concept and the activist practice of reproductive justice, and Laura Briggs, Amrita Pande, Sharmila Rudrappa, and Heather Jacobson have published outstanding examples of focus studies in that field. Briggs and Jacobson look at the United States, Pande and Rudrappa at India. Briggs argues that neoliberal policies—the privatization of wealth and care—were instantiated through specifically reproductive politics of welfare reform, the immigrant politics of care work, and most recently, the foreclosure crisis, and have fundamentally transformed households, including the unhappy recourse to gay marriage, disproportionate Black infant mortality, and the structural infertility of later childbearing that has given rise to assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). Pande, Rudrappa, and Jacobson analyze one specific crystallization point of debates about reproductive freedom, practice, and justice, namely, (transnational) gestational surrogacy, in India and the United States, respectively.
With their "collaborative gift" (6) Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, Ross, an activist and cofounder of SisterSong, and Solinger, a renowned historian, present the first "primer" (1) that tells the movement's herstory, explains the concept, and draws "a creative vision for achieving human rights protections" (1). The authors begin with clear and concise definitions: reproductive justice (RJ) is understood as a "contemporary framework for activism and for thinking about the experience of reproduction" as well as a political movement "that...