What are Reproductive Rights?

Reproductive rights refer to an individual’s right to determine when to have children and take decisions about his or her reproductive health. Reproductive rights deal with issues such as birth control, abortion, sex education, family planning and other matters associated with reproduction. Religious and moral beliefs often influence a person’s decision on such topics. This is also the main reason why the issue of reproductive rights is highly controversial.


There is no explicit right to reproduce under the US Constitution. However this right has been explicitly recognized by the US Supreme Court. The right to reproduce is seen as a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has also passed many judgments that affect the reproductive rights of individuals:

Skinner v. OklahomaProcreation
Eisenstadt v. BairdContraception
Prince v. MassachusettsFamily relationships
Pierce v. Society of SistersChild rearing

The right to privacy is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and was at the heart of the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade

Reproductive Rights – Men

Do men have reproductive rights? This is a hotly debated issue in the United States. While a woman’s reproductive rights have been legally recognized, the exact status of a man’s reproductive is less certain. Organizations like Center for Men (NCM) have claimed that men have reproductive rights especially on issues like adoption, false paternity, abortion, ownership of frozen embryos, etc.

In Roe v. Wade, the court held that a biological father does not have the right to reject financial obligations of an unwanted child under the Equal Protection Clause. There have been no judgments that have dealt with the issue of whether men have reproductive rights. The US Constitution guarantees equal treatment for men and women but only if they are similarly situated. When it comes to reproduction, men and women aren’t similarly situated.

Reproductive Rights – Minor

Women even those below 18 years of age can take decision about their reproductive health and abortion but state law can limit these rights by requiring parental consent and place restrictions on abortion. Many organizations working in the field of minor health rights have been opposing such laws and limitations on minor’s reproductive rights.

Pro-life vs. Pro-choice

Of all reproductive rights, nothing is more controversial than abortion. The main issue is whether or not a woman can terminate a pregnancy which is left untouched would have resulted in a living child.

There are two camps. On one side, the pro-choice, and the other the pro-life. The pro-choice groups claim that the right to abortion is covered by an individual’s right to privacy which is a constitutional right while the pro-life camp claim that the unborn child is a living being from the time of conception and therefore abortion should be considered a criminal act.

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