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RFLC Research Spotlight: Connecting Climate Change and Reproductive Justice

In honor of Earth Week, this RFLC research spotlight focuses on the connections between Reproductive Justice and Environmental Justice and the evidence-based policies that state legislators can pursue to improve reproductive and maternal health, particularly for Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.

To learn more about SiX’s work on progressive agriculture and climate change go to and learn more about the Cohort for Rural Opportunity and Prosperity (CROP).


Reproductive justice and environmental justice

Reproductive Justice: the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.
(SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective)

Environmental Justice: All people and communities have the right to equal environmental protection under the law, and the right to live, work and play in communities that are safe, healthy and free of life-threatening conditions.F
(First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit)


Focusing the narrative

The principles of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice both reject outdated and discriminatory arguments of ‘overpopulation’ and focus on the value of bodily autonomy and safe and healthy environments for all.

This might look like efforts to curb the impact of climate change (see the spotlight below), reduce exposure to environmental toxins, or address contaminated water and increased temperatures– all of which low-income people, people that identify as women, people that are immigrants, and people of color and indigenous people are more likely to experience.


National Women’s Law Center, If you care about Environmental Justice, you should care about Reproductive Justice

Intersections of Our Lives Collaborative, Clean Water and Reproductive Justice (July 2020)


The impact of climate change on reproductive and maternal health

In the two issue briefs below, Osub Ahmed (Senior Analyst at the Center for American Progress), outlines the impact that consequences of climate change- such as extreme heat and natural disasters- have on people seeking reproductive health care services, pregnant people, and families’ physical and economic health.

Five Ways to Improve Maternal Health by Addressing the Climate Crisis (April 2021)

Climate change poses serious health risks to pregnant people and their infants. Policymakers can commit to protecting pregnant & postpartum people from the climate crisis by:

    • 1) Targeting resources to pregnant and postpartum people living in climate-affected areas
    • 2) Improving the quality and resiliency of housing and local infrastructure
    • 3) Developing a national heat vulnerability index to protect pregnant and postpartum people against extreme heat
    • 4) Expanding access to maternal telehealth services
    • 5) Improving access to family planning services

Integrating a Reproductive Justice Framework in Climate Change Research (March 2020)

    • Pregnant people exposed to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, experience higher rates of miscarriage and preterm birth
    • Natural disasters disrupt access to good and services, including menstrual care products and family planning care
    • The negative toll that climate change takes on economic and food security is more likely to hit women and pregnant people the hardest


Policy approaches

There are a number of ways that policymakers can elevate the connection between environmental and reproductive justice.

    • U.S. Congress Rep. Lauren Underwood introduced The Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act in Feb. 2021 to designate ‘climate change risk zones’ and fund community organizations and state and local health departments to provide support and services to pregnant and postpartum people in these areas
    • New York, Wisconsin, and Vermont created heat vulnerability indices to help state and local officials plan for extreme heat

For more information or connections to research experts in the area of reproductive and environmental health please contact [email protected]