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Separate and unequal: the political geography of reproductive rights, reproductive justice, and reproductive health (co-organized by the Spirit of 1848 Caucus, the Women's Caucus, the Socialist Caucus, and the Medical Care Section)
Wednesday, November 19, 2014: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Recognition that “place matters” is longstanding in public health. In the mid-19th c CE, public health research discovered that neighborhood mortality rates varies by neighborhood poverty(1-3), expanding the earlier Hippocratic emphasis on physical environs, as per the 5th c BCE classic “Airs, Waters, Places”(1,4,5). Only recently, however, has still another dimension of place – aptly termed “political geography”6,7 -- begun to inform analysis of population health and health inequities(8-11). At issue is how place-based political institutions, laws and policies structure whether populations can – or cannot – attain health equity(1,8).
Bringing home the issue of political geography is the case of US reproductive rights, reproductive justice, and reproductive health. In January 2014 the Guttmacher Institute reported that during the past 3 years (2011-2013), US state legislatures enacted more abortion restrictions (N=205) than in the entire previous decade (N = 189, 2001-2010), along with policies hostile to family planning, emergency contraception, and sex education(12). Consequently, between 2000 and 2013 the proportion of US women of reproductive age living in states hostile to abortion rights rose from 31% (13 states) to 56% (27 states)(12) – this at a time when over 50% of all US pregnancies are unintended, translating to 1-in-20 US women of reproductive age having an unintended pregnancy each year(13). Meanwhile, 26 states, encompassing about 50% of the US population, have rejected participating in expansion of Medicaid, in opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), limiting access to reproductive health care(14,15).
The impact of restrictions on reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care are unequal and disproportionately harm US women and girls who are low-income and/or of color(16-19). In the 1990s, women of color activists, US and globally, conceived the idea of “reproductive justice” to address the joint embodiment of racial/ethnic, class, and gender inequality and their influence on the control one’s own body, the choice whether or not to be pregnant, and possibilities for having healthy children(17-20). Framed by the indivisible and interconnected set of social, economic, political, civil, and politic rights that constitute human rights and are vital to health(17-20), a reproductive justice analysis is thus a crucial contribution to understanding geographic variation in reproductive health and community well-being, including across generations.
Hence our proposed Special Session: “Separate and Unequal: The Political Geography of Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Justice, and Reproductive Health.” Its prominent speakers – Linda Gordon, the preeminent historian of US reproductive rights and health; Carol McDonald, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Cindy Pearson, the Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network; and Rheneisha Robertson, Executive Director of the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, based in New Orleans and leading reproductive justice work at the city, state, and national level -- will collectively provide an incisive analysis of the historical and global context and current realities of reproductive justice and injustice in the US, as shaped by the passage and implementation of laws and policies by US federal, state, and local governments. By doing so, the session’s presentations will: (a) enhance public health capacity to engage with political geography, and (b) address APHA’s 3 overriding priorities: “(1) Building Public Health Infrastructure and Capacity; (2) Creating Health Equity; and (3) Ensuring the Right to Health and Health Care”(21).
Session Objectives: Learning Objective #1: Describe how past and present state-to-state variation in US reproductive rights and reproductive justice demonstrates the importance of “how where you live affects your health and well-being.”
Learning Objective #2: Describe the connections between – and also distinctions between – reproductive rights and reproductive justice.
Learning Objective #3: Explain what is meant by “political geography” and why it matters for public health.
See individual abstracts for presenting author's disclosure statement and author's information.
Organized by: APHA-Special Sessions
Endorsed by: Public Health Nursing, Spirit of 1848 Caucus, Public Health Social Work, Women's Caucus, Community Health Planning and Policy Development, Caucus on Refugee and Immigrant Health
Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH)
Masters Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)