The relationships between feminism, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice are not clearcut. Early women’s rights activists campaigned for political equality among the sexes on the basis of traditional views about women’s supposedly natural roles as mothers, and argued that some mothers are better than other mothers. The Famous Five espoused white nationalist and ablelist beliefs, supporting an overt policy of “Keeping Canada White” 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, as Indigenous women report 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 is an example of 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 7.7% of the total population of children in Canada. This is an affront to reproductive justice, a 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.
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 that using gender neutral language is a necessary part of achieving reproductive rights and reproductive justice? Why or why not?
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