The relationship between feminism, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice is not clear-cut. Early women’s rights activists campaigned for political equality among the sexes based on traditional views about women’s supposedly natural roles as mothers. They argued that some mothers are better than other mothers. The Famous Five espoused white nationalist and ableist beliefs, supporting an overt “Keeping Canada White” policy through eugenics programmes, which forcibly sterilized those labelled ‘feeble-minded.’ Despite a formal end to eugenics in Alberta in 1972, notions of ‘ideal motherhood’ continue to influence eugenic practices. Indigenous women reported coerced sterilization in Alberta hospitals, as documented in a class action lawsuit. Whereas the Canadian women’s movement struggled in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s for reproductive rights, Indigenous, Black, and racialized women continue to struggle for reproductive justice. The case of Ms. G and her son exemplifies the need for reproductive justice, including the right to reproduce in culturally healthy and safe ways. The Government of Canada reports that 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous despite comprising only 7.7% of the total population of children in Canada. This is an affront to reproductive justice and the holistic approach to reproductive autonomy developed by women of colour. A reproductive justice approach emphasizes that reproduction happens on a collective level and not just at the level of the individual or family.

Test Yourself

Discussion Questions

Reflect on using gender-inclusive language to discuss pregnancy and parenting. What are your initial responses to reading about the “manly art of pregnancy”? Do you think using gender-neutral language is necessary for achieving reproductive rights and reproductive justice? Why or why not? Make sure to reference course materials in your response.

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