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?


  1. I think it is terrible for the APA to post this and assume members of APA are in favor of abortion. This has nothing to do with the mission of APA and is inappropriate. Abortions are not fair to the humans being aborted.


    1. Thank you for your comment – we appreciate your taking the time to write. Information on this blog, like other information disseminated by APA, is intended to communicate information based on psychological science. Members’ views and opinions of course vary, around the issue of abortion, and on many other issues. The topic of this post is related to the 2008 APA Task Force report on Mental Health and Abortion, which found no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women.


  2. APA ‘s ideological homogeneity is embarrassing. There is indisputable evidence of international social injustice towards women. Yet to brush with broad strokes and minimize personal responsibility in cases of mutually-volitional behavior is reprehensible. When a person insists upon purchasing a boat when they lack the financial means, we call this mania. Yet, when a person chooses to have sex and lacks the resources to care for a child, we call that sexual or reproductive injustice. We then say the comparison is illogical because a person cannot compare a material want with a psychological need. But if one is a want and the other a “need,” then how do some people forego either or both and live high quality lives in the absence of such? So maybe the conversation turns to the injustice of a woman carrying a baby while a man escapes that burden and responsibility. This is injustice only if you perceive the status of being a primary nurturer as a naturalistic and/or divine curse. We could go on … Point is, APA is unforgiving in its hostility towards any form of ideological diversity. We prime our members with obvious moral travesty (violence, discrimination, etc.), and then suggest that other ambiguous correlates (e.g. access to abortion) are adequate and accurate proxies for these moral absolutes. Thus, we continue to encounter op-ed pieces that continue to propagate the uncritical a priori assumptions held by the masses. Sloppy work. Sloppy thinking.


  3. I like how you said that reproductive justice requires rights plus resources and accessibility. They have an early abortion option at the clinic by my home. Thanks for the information on reproductive rights.


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