More than ever, people of childbearing age are choosing not to have children. There are a variety of factors that go into this choice — wage stagnation, the housing market, civil unrest, COVID-19. But a common denominator heard among many in their 20s and beyond is grave concern over our climate trajectory.
They’re not wrong to be worried about what kind of climate and resources would be available for their potential kids. Climate justice is a crucial part of reproductive justice.
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective includes in its definition of reproductive justice “the human right to … parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” That is a key connection with climate change.
A safe environment in which to have and raise children is a basic human right — violated by the climate crisis. From pregnancy to childhood, climate change threatens people’s reproductive health.
“… Reproductive Justice [is] 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’s full definition of reproductive justice
Climate Change Puts Pregnant People at Risk
Higher temperatures are an immediate symptom of the climate crisis. Hot weather is obviously uncomfortable for pregnant people, but it can shift quickly from discomfort to danger.
Extreme climate events also harm pregnant people’s health. After Hurricane Sandy in New York, emergency room visits for pregnancy complications increased by nearly 17%.
The US already has a horrific racist parental health crisis. Black and Indigenous birthing parents and babies die during birth, or soon after, at much higher rates than white parents and babies.
The climate crisis compounds this risk, and pregnant Black and Indigenous people face disproportionately high reproductive threats from climate change.
For example, historic racist policies like redlining have led to higher temperatures, lower air and water quality, and fewer trees in predominantly Black neighborhoods. This translates to poor health outcomes in pregnancy and birth.
These examples of environmental racism also harm children of color after they are born, like the high asthma rates among Black children.
Climate Change Is a Danger to Reproductive Health and Justice
The opportunity to raise children in a safe and sustainable environment is a human right. Therefore, climate change and the threat it poses to pregnant people, babies, children, and families constitute a human rights violation.
As is so often the case, the individuals who face these threats are not the people who caused them. Careless and greedy fossil fuel CEOs have caused a public health crisis, and it’s long past time for their destruction to be stopped. The well-being of current and future generations requires nothing less.
More people need to know this: Climate justice and reproductive justice go hand in hand!