For Virginia to support reproductive justice, legislators must enact or enforce laws that ensure all people have access to reproductive healthcare, family planning services, and basic education. It allows people to have access to abortion, contraception, and other reproductive services; to make independent decisions about whether, when, and how they want to have children; and raise their children in a safe and healthy environment.
Virginia has consistently fought against funding organizations and resources like Planned Parenthood, even though it provides vital resources to many Virginians. Additionally, Virginia does not support the codification of sexual education into its state curriculum or the funding of comprehensive sex education in high schools. Their solution instead was to pass a law that mandates abstinence-only instruction until marriage beginning in 5th grade. Their stance on contraceptives is wildly irresponsible at a time when teen pregnancy rates are rising across Virginia. Furthermore, sex education has unique benefits for LGBTQ+ youth in particular. It is partly because LGBTQ+ youth are often stigmatized by their peers, educators, and even families and have no one to turn to with concerns about their sexual health.
The Virginia legislature recently introduced legislation requiring people to undergo ultrasounds before receiving abortions. Despite the claim that such measures are intended to prevent abortion, they only place barriers in the way of vulnerable people obtaining health care. These laws simply add unnecessary burdens to patients — ultrasounds are expensive — and have little effect on changing women’s minds about terminating pregnancies.
Virginia needs more comprehensive sex education classes. Politicians in Virginia should stop blocking reproductive health care access and work towards safeguarding our futures. As part of reproductive justice, we should have the right to choose what we do with our bodies, including preventing unintended pregnancies. When a person doesn’t have access to affordable healthcare, or adequate education about their bodies, they are at a higher risk of experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. Individuals who don’t receive proper prenatal care during pregnancy are more likely to suffer a miscarriage or give birth prematurely, putting both mother and child at risk for immediate health complications or even death. Preventive services like Pap smears and mammograms can detect cancer early; without them, people are at a greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Life-saving services should be available to everyone.
Virginia should adopt laws requiring public schools to teach about abortion and birth control. Family planning services should be more widely available, as well as abortions and contraceptives. If we wish to reduce teen pregnancy rates, we must educate young people about all aspects of sexuality and reproduction. Furthermore, educating young people about contraception reduces unintended pregnancies and could potentially mitigate STD infections.
The right to make personal decisions about one’s own body should be protected from discrimination and systemic oppression. This includes having access to safe, affordable abortion services; comprehensive sex education; family planning; equal pay for equal work (especially for women of color); job security after having a child; paid maternity leave; universal pre-K that is affordable or free for all children regardless of income level or parents’ immigration status. These issues are not just women’s issues-they are part of reproductive justice for all, regardless of gender identity or expression. Reproductive justice allows people to participate in society fully and plan their families when they want, regardless of whether they want children. Social equality begins with reproductive justice.