Reproductive Justice Media Reference Guide
January 16, 2015
Grantee News From Strong Families:
In the past 20 years, movements fighting for justice have changed in the U.S. As younger people join the struggle, as racial demographics shift in the U.S., and as campaigns and groups seek to link across issue and advance systemic change – movements for progressive change have evolved in many ways. The story is not just about an incorporation of new technology or the tension between activist generations – it is also a story about how movements are reimagining their focus, frame, and narrative.
Mainstream media coverage of reproductive health and rights has historically tended to focus on a single “choice” framework or on legislation and litigation surrounding abortion and birth control. As a result, reporting may rely on the same small pool of organizational spokespeople, primary healthcare providers, and legal analysts. The very public controversy around the legal right to abortion has limited the media coverage of many other reproductive rights and health issues.
Today, journalists have an opportunity to shed new insight onto an “old” story. Rather than exploring familiar terrain about abortion rights, or the latest legal maneuvering, journalists have a chance to find a new angle and to tell the story about the work being done by reproductive justice activists to expand access, introduce new issues to the reproductive health and rights framework, and to advance meaningful political and social change.
As a national network of more than 150 organizations working at the local, state, and national levels to advance the rights, recognition and resources of all families, Strong Families is uniquely positioned to see the reproductive justice (RJ) issues facing different kinds of families – from LGBTQ to immigrant families and many other kinds of families. Strong Families defines reproductive justice (RJ) as all people having the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their gender, bodies, sexuality, and families for themselves and their communities. Because the definition is broad, the issues that fall under the RJ umbrella are equally broad. From abortion access to the rights of incarcerated individuals and resources for young families, RJ issues run the gamut. The picture is broad and complex, as just a few data points show.
- Maternal mortality rates are over three times higher among African-American women, at 21.5%, compared to non-Hispanic white women at 6.7% and 9.2% of women of other races.
- Vietnamese-American women have the highest cervical cancer rate of any ethnic group, five times the rate of non-Hispanic white women.
- Racial disparities exist for same-sex couples: Black female same-sex couples have a median income of $21,000 less than white female same-sex couples.
But RJ is not merely a set of depressing statistics and terrible facts. Rather, it is both an analytic framework and a social movement for self-determination. RJs approach makes clear that reproductive health and choices must be contextualized and that voices that traditionally have been marginalized are critical to defining the problem, posing solutions, and leading the movement for change.
Members of the media have a substantial influence on the public’s attitudes toward and understanding of RJ issues. In covering stories about reproductive health and rights, journalists can ask three questions to explore the possible RJ implications:
- Are people of color, young people, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, or low-income communities being disproportionately affected in a way that warrants exploration? Are certain communities or populations experiencing a significant difference in outcomes than others?
- Who are the experts from communities affected by the disparity who can serve as sources or provide first-hand perspective for the story?
- What are the historic and systemic factors that contribute to these outcomes? In many instances, law and policy, intervention from the medical establishment, or legacies of racism and colonialism have created disparities that provide critical context in understanding today’s outcomes.
This Strong Families media guide is intended to be used by a variety of traditional and new media outlets seeking to learn about or expand their knowledge of RJ in their writing. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive encyclopedia of issues within RJ, nor is it intended to limit coverage to the issues highlighted herein.
With the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2015, our first RJ In Focus looks at abortion, in part due to renewed state-level attacks on access to abortion, and increased coverage of reproductive rights in the media. More>