Reproductive rights refer to the legal rights associated with human reproduction as well as the health aspects that accompany reproduction. Reproductive rights are very broad and often coupled with the term reproductive freedom . It can include birth control, abortion, healthcare, and education to name a few. It is considered fundamental to “the promise of human dignity, self-determination and equality” (Center for Reproductive Rights ). These practices are not international standards, however. Laws and practices vary in nearly every country, and because of unjust practices the subject has become a hotspot for human rights —specifically women’s rights—debates.
In many democratic nations, reproductive rights are considered a basic human right: the ability to govern one’s body; access to education; equal access to healthcare; and the right to privacy. Reproductive rights within human rights laws pose problems because international standards embrace basic human rights, but individual nations preclude recognizing reproductive rights within the international standards of human rights. The World Health Organization further defines reproductive rights as an idea of human rights: "Implicit in this [reproductive rights] is the right of men and women to be informed...and the right of access to appropriate health care services." In Africa, however, access to appropriate health care services has a bleak outlook: "Of 6.4 million abortions carried out in 2008, only 3% were performed under safe conditions" (Guttmacher).
Incorporating reproductive rights within women’s rights douses the patriarchal flame that dominates society. The debate over reproductive freedom as women’s rights is particularly controversial. Many past (and even present) laws force women to relinquish freedom over their bodies. Reproductive rights, then, have largely been coupled as part of the feminist agenda. But contraceptive use and availability incites controversy today. Many advocates for women’s reproductive rights believe that contraceptives are a safe way to regulate pregnancy ina women’s body. They promulgate that the decision of when to have children is essential to women’s rights. Unfortunately many bureaucratic laws have inhibited women from reproductive freedom. For example, many health care plans do not provide coverage for women’s health spanning from abortion to contraceptives.
Moreover, literature fictionalizes reproductive rights. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, for example, the women of the “all-female” utopia essentially will themselves a child. If the women do not wish to conceive at a given moment, they simply postpone the pregnancy through mind power. Furthermore, if the utopian society deems a woman unfit for recreating, the governors “appealed to her…to renounce motherhood” (70). In this “utopian” society, many women do not have complete freedom over their bodies for the betterment of society. Continually, Octavia Butler’s “The Evening, The Morning, and The Night” displays additional themes of reproductive rights. The main character Lynn, who is afflicted with a disease that causes self-mutilation, clearly conveys the importance for reproductive rights: “I don’t want kids, but I don’t want someone else telling me I can’t have any” (42). Her reasoning for such is also succinct and clear: “That would be like killing part of yourself—even though it wasn’t a part you intended to use” (42). Each anecdote demonstrates how important reproductive rights are for women, and for the basic human right of governing one’s body.
Butler, Octavia. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night.” Bloodchild and Other Stories. 1987. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005. 35-68. Print.
Center for Reproductive Rights, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.
“Facts on Abortion in Africa.” Guttmacher Institute, Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. 1979. Mineola: Dover, 1998. Print.
“Health topics: Reproductive rights.” World Health Organization: Reproductive health. World Health Organization, 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.