Where are the Gaps in Reproductive Health Care Access?

By Maryam

As part of our Changemaker’s series, we are interviewing passionate advocates that are diligently working to ensure our reproductive rights are realized.  

Emily Kadar from the National Institute of Reproductive Health talks about the societal barriers preventing reproductive justice and access to birth control.

What do you think is missing in our system in terms of reproductive health care access that most people are unaware of?

EK: We need to tackle systemic racism, which affects all corners of our society, including reproductive health. Black mothers who fear for the safety of their children are being denied full reproductive freedom. Immigrant women who face the threat of deportation and a lack of adequate health care services are being denied full reproductive freedom. In New York City, black women are TWELVE times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. This is infuriating! Black women and women of color have been sounding the alarm on these issues for many years as leaders of the reproductive justice movement, and we all need to be picking up their message.

What inspired you to get involved in reproductive justice?
EK: As a kid, I was always obsessed with justice and fairness, and I began to identify as a feminist in elementary school. My mother always taught me the importance of bodily autonomy, and she was never hesitant about telling my sister and me that abortion is not wrong and that it can be liberating for the women who choose it. My baby feminist leanings led me to Women’s and Gender Studies as a student at Brandeis University, where I was also very involved with a campus feminist group. That activism got me my first job as an organizer at the Feminist Majority Foundation, and then I spent a few years with the government relations team at the Center for Reproductive Rights before ultimately landing at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, where I’ve worked for about five years.

Why do you think there are societal barriers to accessing birth control?
EK: I know it sounds academic and pedantic, but it’s the patriarchy. Seriously. Men in power are afraid of what happens when women are in control of their bodies and their sexuality, so they slut-shame us and deny us access to the tools we need to control our reproduction. It’s up to us to fight for policies that make birth control accessible and to stop the stigma around birth control use. I’m so tired of people feeling like they need to justify using birth control and talk about their cramps or acne as the reason they should be able to get low-cost birth control. You don’t want to get pregnant! That’s a medical reason for birth control – and it’s good enough!


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