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Reproductive Justice is Essential to Women’s Physical and Mental Health

Woman holding necklace with female symbol as pendant

By Joan Chrisler, PhD (Chair, APA Committee on Women in Psychology)

Decisions about whether – and when – to bear children have long-term consequences for women’s lives.  In order to make those decisions, women need to be able to control their own bodies and exercise their rights.

Too often women are unable to make those decisions “free of discrimination, coercion, and violence,” as the World Health Organization (ICPD Programme of Action, 1994, para. 7.3) defined reproductive rights.

In countries (including the U.S.), where reproductive rights are guaranteed by law, many women are unable to access the services they need (e.g., contraception, abortion) because there are no services near where they live or because they cannot afford them.

Reproductive justice requires rights plus resources and accessibility; without all three in place, women cannot make the decisions they need to preserve their physical and mental health and well-being.

Reproductive decision-making begins with the right to determine when and with whom to engage in sexual activity.

It requires the availability of safe, effective, and affordable contraception, including emergency contraceptives, as well as safe, legal abortion as a back-up to contraception failure and in cases of rape, incest, or threats to women’s mental (e.g., stress, depression) and physical health (e.g., miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy).

Reproductive justice also requires affordable infertility treatments, accessible prenatal and postnatal care for women and their infants, and safe and sensitive birthing assistance.

Freedom from vulnerability to rape, sexual trafficking, and forced marriage are essential to reproductive justice, as is equal power in intimate relationships.

Although women have made remarkable strides toward equal rights in recent decades, we remain too far away from guaranteeing reproductive justice for all.


International Conference on Population and Development [ICPF]. (1994). Programme of action. Retrieved from

You may also be interested in:

APA Task Force Report on Mental Health and Abortion. (2008).  Retrieved from

Chrisler, Joan C. (Ed.). (2012). Reproductive justice: A global concern. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

We want to hear from you – leave us your comments:

How can our society empower women to have control over their own bodies and reproductive rights?

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