Imagining new possibilities with Reproductive Justice by Brenna Bernardino | The Road to Abortion Equity

MSI Australia
4 min readNov 30, 2022

The Federal Senate has established an Inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare. The Inquiry was called because the government has acknowledged we have a crisis of sexual and reproductive health access.

On Wednesday 9 November 2022, we hosted an online forum to explore what the inquiry terms mean, how it applies in practice and provided a submission template which you can download here to assist people in writing their own.

Brenna Bernardino gave the following speech at our webinar, which you can watch here.

Good afternoon all. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners across the lands that we are meeting on today. I am joining you from the lands of the Ahkosias, Karankawa and the Atakapa, also known as Houston, Texas in the USA.

I have lived between the US and Australia and am now in Texas, one of the hardest hit states for reproductive freedom in the US.

Here abortion is completely banned with very limited exceptions.

As a result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the USA, Australia now has the unique opportunity to, as the National Women’s Health Strategy says, provide ‘equitable access to abortion.’

To reimagine new possibilities for reproductive freedom in Australia, we must look beyond reproductive rights alone.

Making reproductive choices can be limited by barriers such as cost, location, stigma and a lack of cultural safety among other barriers.

One answer is reproductive justice.

Today I will drive home the message that universal access is the floor, but fighting for reproductive justice is the ceiling.

To clarify, reproductive justice is not a radical or new idea.

It is fundamentally about shifting our perspective and privileging the perspectives of underserved communities.

It’s about health equity.

One definition of reproductive justice that came from a wonderful group of Black women in the US 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.

When we think about universal access, the abortion equity is central, but it is also just the beginning.

But when we think about access from a reproductive justice perspective it includes access to comprehensive relationships and sexuality education, contraception from those who want it, support for miscarriages and infertility issues, living free from sexual violence, a living wage and living in a society where children like Cassius Turvey can live long, healthy and happy lives.

When reproductive justice is achieved, it means that people can make reproductive decisions without social, cultural, economic and political barriers.

How can you advocate for reproductive justice in your submissions?

It’s about an equity lens, on every single point you make.

With each area you write about, think about the needs of people who are the most negatively disproportionately impacted by our policies and laws: First Nations peoples, migrant and refugees including people on temporary visas, LGBTIQA+ people, people with disability, sex workers and those who are incarcerated.

This means ensuring there are adequate resources for all of these people to make reproductive decisions about their bodies and lives.

This is how we work towards reproductive justice.

A future where everyone can make reproductive decisions could mean:

  • An increase in First Nations’ birthing practices to improve birth outcomes for mums, bubs and communities
  • Healthcare choices related to fertility and sterilisation that are based on situation and not age.
  • It means the full spectrum of parenting options- such as adoption, support to be a parent or single parent, culturally safe abortion care, and to provide support to those who are childless or childfree, whether by choice or circumstance.

When we reimagine new possibilities, we change the future.

It’s about control versus freedom.

Freedom from influences to control our own decisions.

We need more resources, and we need them in the hands of people who need those resources the most.

We need long term funding, free of restrictions.

Universal access is the floor, fighting for reproductive justice is the ceiling.

When we centre community voices, everyone will benefit.

Most of all, the people who need it the most will benefit. Not just those with the most resources.

I encourage you if possible to collaborate on your submissions with other individuals or organisations.

This will ensure diverse representation, ideas and voices are included.

If you are writing a submission for an organisation, consider who has the power over the content?

If you represent disability or LGBTIQA+ organisations, are you including the voices of First Nations’ or trans people, or even both?

Our starting point begins with funding universal access to abortion, because we need abortion equity now.

It continues when we make a commitment to continue every day to ensure that there is reproductive justice for all. And that fight, it doesn’t end.

We just keep pushing the limits of what is possible.

Brenna Bernardino (she/her) is Timorese, Portuguese and Torres Strait Islander. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Melbourne, a Master of Public Health from the University of Queensland, and a Sex Educator Certificate.

She has conducted research in sexual health promotion and Indigenous health in both Australia and the United States. Brenna most recently worked for MSI Australia as a Health Communications Officer, and now works as a contractor in sexual assault prevention and FASD prevention for an urban Native American community.

She is also the Scholarship Chair for Sisters in Public Health and a Contraception Task Force Co-chair for the American Public Health Association. Brenna is passionate about reproductive justice, Toastmasters, karate and currently lives in Houston, Texas.

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MSI Australia

MSI Australia is the leading, accredited, national provider for abortion, contraception and vasectomy.