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Reproductive rights are the entitlements individuals have to make decisions concerning whether they have children or not, how many children they have, and when they decide to have a family. An individual’s reproductive rights may vary according to their gender and their location, as laws governing rights to abortion and access to contraceptives for teens, for example, differ. Reproductive rights are essential for the physical, mental, and socioeconomic health and well being of individuals.
Several choices people make concerning their families and their bodies fall under the banner of reproductive rights. When a woman becomes pregnant, it is usually their reproductive right to decide whether they will have their child. In many parts of the world, it is also an expectant mother’s decision whether to terminate the pregnancy, especially in its early stages. However, reproductive rights begin before conception. Decisions about whether or not to use contraceptives, access to reproductive health services, adopting a child, and even receiving sex education are all reproductive rights issues. Making access to contraceptives and women’s health services affordable are two more reproductive rights.
Reproductive rights can be challenged by moral, ethical, and religious concerns. Some people and groups are concerned that tools that allow women to choose to delay pregnancy or never have children, including contraceptives, sex education, and birth control, are considered immoral. When these people can make legal decisions or influence them, reproductive rights may be withdrawn or challenged. New technologies which allow couples to conceive when they may not have been able to naturally are similarly controversial.
Reproductive rights are not recognized in the U.S. Constitution but they are recognized by the Supreme Court as “fundamental” personal rights. Women tend to have greater reproductive rights than men, as they are the ones to become pregnant and ultimately give birth. However, some argue that men deserve the right to determine whether or not they become fathers, including whether they should be expected to provide financial support for unwanted children.
Minors also have fewer reproductive rights than adults. In many locations they are unable to access contraceptives or abortions, for example. If they can, they often need parental consent first.