Join NOW in Taking Action for Reproductive Justice
Reproductive Justice is Every Woman's Right
- Reproductive justice ensures that women are healthy, both physically and emotionally; that they can make decisions about their bodies and sexuality free from government interference; and that they have the economic resources to plan their own families. A woman's well-being requires self-determination, equality, and the respect and support of her society.
- NOW believes in a comprehensive approach to achieving reproductive justice for all women—including winning and preserving legal protections, expanding reproductive health services in every community, and ending the discrimination and inequality that keep women from controlling their own reproductive lives.
- Constitutional protections alone cannot ensure accessible and affordable reproductive health services for all women. In a political environment hostile to reproductive rights, a number of women—especially young women, women of color, poor women, immigrant women and women with disabilities—are unable to access abortion, birth control, pre-natal care, maternity leave, child care and other crucial health and family services.
- Reproductive empowerment and economic status are closely connected. Women living in poverty, even those just getting by, often lack health insurance and face other barriers to reproductive services. Without adequate income and health care, many women find it almost impossible to protect their health and provide for their families. In addition, an unplanned or forced pregnancy can push a woman even further into economic peril.
- A small but influential minority in the U.S. wants to deny basic reproductive care to women. Even the universal right to safe, legal contraception is under attack. With the support of more and more state legislatures, pharmacists are refusing to dispense prescriptions for emergency contra-ception and birth control pills, which places an undue burden on women exercising the right to practice family planning.
- Women must be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves. NOW is working to stop doctors, hospitals and the government from forcing unwanted and unnecessary reproductive procedures on women, such as sterilization or cesarean sections. At the same time, women must not be denied life- and health-preserving services, including certain abortion procedures as well as screening and treatment for breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV and other diseases.
- NOW believes that our schools should provide only the most up-to-date, medically-accurate and comprehensive sex education to their students. Abstinence-only education, a favorite of the right-wing, leaves young women and men uninformed and unprepared to safeguard their own health and well-being.
- In the struggle for reproductive justice, women will not truly be free until they are well-informed, able to access a full range of health services, and empowered economically, socially and politically. Only then can women take full control of their bodies and their lives.
NOW: Always on the Front Lines
1960s NOW is the first major group to endorse a woman’s right to control her reproductive life—including a call for widespread sex education, access to birth control, legalized abortion, maternity leave rights, publicly-supported child care and a ban on pregnancy discrimination in employment.
1970s NOW speaks out against the forced sterilization of women, which typically targets women of color, poor women and women with disabilites. NOW fights for the restoration of Medicaid funding for abortion and the repeal of parental involvement restrictions for young women.
1980s NOW launches a comprehensive campaign against anti-abortion terrorism and harassment. Over the next two decades, the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit helps dramatically reduce clinic violence. NOW calls for FDA approval of RU-486, and research and education on HIV/AIDS.
1990s NOW works to elect a record number of feminists to office to protect and advance reproductive rights. Members protest welfare reform policies that discriminate against poor mothers and their children. NOW promotes breastfeeding, midwifery and other birthing and parenting options.
2000s NOW is one of the first groups to call for a filibuster of ultra-conservative nominees to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. NOW helps organize the largest ever demonstration in D.C. for women's health and reproductive rights. Members lobby for over-the-counter access to EC.
"Every time a governmental system decides what I should do with my body, I become less of a human being. This country's freedoms do not stop at my voice, but extend across every cell
of my body and every part of my soul." — Dakia Davis, North Carolina NOW leader and activist
Birth Control and EC
- The right to privacy, including the right to use contraception, was recognized by the Supreme Court more than 30 years ago. By using birth control, women have been able to limit unintended pregnancies, determining the timing and size of their families. Most people can't imagine losing this right; yet, opponents of contraception are intent on controlling our government and the courts.
- The development of emergency contraception (EC) means that women can, at last, safely reduce the risk of pregnancy when their contraception fails or in the case of unprotected intercourse, such as rape. Many women still do not know about EC or how to obtain it. A doctor's prescription is still needed in most states; and since every hour counts when taking EC, NOW activists have pressed the FDA to make this option available over-the-counter in pharmacies.
- Barriers created by a lack of information, health insurance or economic means continue to place birth control and EC out of the reach of many women, often the women who need them the most. Anti-choice pharmacists and hospitals also block access to contracpetion.
- Women's reproductive health comprises much more than birth control and abortion. It begins with comprehensive sex education in our schools and affordable family health care so that mothers can raise healthy girls. Preventative care is important, like the new HPV vaccine that can save girls and women from contracting a virus that causes cervical cancer. Preventing and detecting HIV is also a matter of life and death for many women.
- When women choose to have children, they must have access to adequate and affordable pre- and post-natal health care. Birthing choices, such as midwives or vaginal births after cesarean, must be available.
- Mothers must be supported in the workplace through maternity leave policies, accommodations for breastfeeding, flexible time, and other family-friendly practices.
- Health care, child care, continuing education, jobs, housing and transportation are all crucial elements in allowing women to build healthy families and to lead healthy lives of their own with dignity and empowerment. NOW is working to make this dream a reality.
"I have 11 children. People criticized me, and doctors recommended sterilization. NOW understands that reproductive freedom includes having all choices available to us—including having children and being able to raise them." — Dolores Huerta, co-founder, United Farm Workers of America, and president, Dolores Huerta Foundation
- In 1973, the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in the U.S. The backlash began immediately, and attacks have grown in recent years. States are passing bans that outlaw nearly all abortions. Congress is outlawing specific procedures and trying to grant rights to embryos and fetuses.
- In 1976 the Hyde Amendment cut off funding for abortion to women who cannot afford health care. The Hyde Amendment and state parental involvement laws have resulted in the deaths of women driven to back alley abortions. NOW fights every day against restrictions that make "choice" meaningless.
- Opponents of abortion use clinic violence and harassment to prevent women from exercising their rights and drive away doctors and staff from providing services. As a result, 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, and fewer new doctors are getting trained to perform abortion procedures.
- So-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers use misinformation and intimidation to keep women from obtaining abortions. Often they are located right next to a legitmate women's clinic.
"At my first NOW rally, I felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that I could do more for women's lives. I've faced stalking and intimidation, but at my second mass action I was proud to be speaking as an abortion provider." — Susan Wicklund, M.D., Montana activist and physician