What Exactly Are Reproductive Rights and How Do We Protect Them?

It’s a term that gets used a lot, but what does reproductive rights mean exactly?

Lots of people would say abortion rights are reproductive rights. That’s absolutely true. But the umbrella of reproductive rights covers a lot more than that.

The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as “the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

Let’s break that down a little.

  • Everyone, everywhere has the right to choose when and if they have children.
  • You have the right to information that helps you make that choice.
  • You have the right to the means — procedures and medications — that allow you to plan when and if you have a family.
  • You have the right to sexual and reproductive health care.
  • No one gets to bully you into making any decisions.

Unfortunately, like many human rights, reproductive rights aren’t equally recognized around the world. And in the United States, many aspects of reproductive rights are under attack by the Trump administration and other anti-choice politicians at the state and federal levels.


Understanding your reproductive options is the first step in making decisions about when and if you want to have a child. That’s exactly why the Trump administration is working so hard to gag medical providers who believe in reproductive rights and amplify the voices of those who don’t.

Recent changes to Title X rules seek to prevent medical professionals at clinics that receive Title X funding from discussing abortion or referring their patients to clinics that perform abortions. And policy changes at the Department of Health and Human Services protect health care providers who choose not to give patients information or services based on their personal beliefs.


Having the means to make decisions about reproduction isn’t just about legality. It’s also about access. While Roe v. Wade stands, the right to legal abortion remains federally protected. Nonetheless, many states continue to impose medically unnecessary restrictions and financial guidelines that make it impossible for clinics that provide abortions to survive. When they close, access to other reproductive health care — such as contraception — goes with them.

Cost can also block access to reproductive health care. As clinics close, people are forced to travel out of their region to receive care, which can be prohibitively expensive. Fourteen states currently require people seeking abortions to make two separate trips to the facility performing the procedure, purposefully increasing the difficulty of accessing abortion care.


Sexual and reproductive health care covers everything from testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections to maternity care. As the United Nations Population Fund puts it, “Good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system.”


Everyone is entitled to these reproductive rights. But policies like the Trump administration’s new HHS rules validate discrimination. They allow individual medical professionals to discriminate freely under the guise of religious freedom, further endangering already vulnerable populations.

With these broad new guidelines in place, health care providers are more empowered to turn away LGBTQ patients, withhold emergency contraception, endanger lives by refusing medically necessary abortions and more. Any lack of care is acceptable, as long as it is “justified” by religious objection.

The United Nations recognizes reproductive rights as human rights, and we must demand the same from the U.S. government. Call your state and federal lawmakers. Tell them you demand they respect and protect your reproductive rights. Vote accordingly.

Image credit: jacoblund/Getty Images


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin6 days ago

access to information is key to all other steps

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson8 days ago

Thank you.

Hannah A
Hannah A9 days ago

Thank you

Anna R
Anna R14 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie20 days ago

Thank you so very much.

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie20 days ago

Thank you so very much.

Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie20 days ago

Thank you so very much.

niarica lubatti
Past Member 21 days ago


hELEN hEARFIELD21 days ago


Barbara V
Barbara V22 days ago

All you have to do is look at nature and you'll have your answer. Of course, humans are something else. They let their leaders form a dictatorship over that and more to come. They are too sick to run a nation of emotional health.