Promoting Social Justice at the Crossroads: Environmental and Reproductive Justice

by Meschelle Linjean

Chat transcript

As the U.S. rolls back environmental policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting air and water contamination, it opens more areas to environmental degradation (Gibbens, 2019).  Women, racial/ethnic minorities, low-income workers, and other vulnerable populations remain disproportionately exposed to hazardous chemicals that adversely affect reproductive health and children’s development. Additionally, as Indigenous communities lose their traditional cultural practices tied to the natural world, their capacity to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations declines.

A silouhette of a green tree, has scale of justice hanging from its lowest branhes. A yellow sun or ovum in in the crown of the tree, and a sperm or snake travels up the trunk.
Image: Neal Keller

  Reproductive justice in the U.S. is rapidly regressing as lawmakers pass legislation that severely restricts access to and funding for sex education, family planning, women’s health services, birth control, and abortion services. Inadequate access to healthcare, childcare, maternity and family leave disproportionately impacts those with low-income; undocumented immigrants; migrants; and racial/ethnic minorities. African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives experience the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. LGBTQ2S+ individuals regularly face family planning discrimination. Individuals with disabilities experience high rates of rape and other sexual violence, often with little redress.

Intersectionality, ecology, and policy must be considered to address these conditions and arrive at social justice.

The NASW Code of Ethics calls for inclusion of reproductive justice issues in social work education to promote self-determination (West, 2013). NASW included environmental justice as a 2018-2019 social justice priority (NASW, 2019).

It is important for social workers to consider how environmental justice and reproductive justice are connected, and how this is expressed in our social work practice to advance social justice.

Join us at 9pm ET/6pm PT on Sept. 19 with host Pat Shelly @UBSSW and guest Meschelle Linjean @meschlinjean.  (Her bio can be found on this page:

On the @officialmacrosw handle for this chat is #MacroSW Inc. partner Stephen Cummings.

The FAQs page (Frequently Asked Questions) gives you tips on these chats – especially helpful for first-time participants!

Questions for discussion:

  1. What does environmental justice involve?
  2. What does reproductive justice involve?
  3. How are environmental justice and reproductive justice related?
  4. How does intersectionality relate to the connection between environmental justice and reproductive justice?
  5. What can social workers do to promote social justice at the crossroads of environmental justice and reproductive justice?


Energy Justice Network (n.d.). Principles of environmental justice. Retrieved from  

Sister Song. (n.d.). Reproductive justice. Retrieved from

Murphy, V., Zajicek, A. Norris, A. and Hamilton, L.  (Eds.) (2009). Introduction. In Incorporating intersectionality in social work: Practice, research, policy and education (pp 1-3).  Washington DC: NASW Press. Retrieved from

Gibbens, S. (2019, February 1). 15 ways the Trump administration has changed environmental policies. National Geographic. Retrieved from

Grand Challenges for Social Work: Strengthening the social response to the human impacts of environmental change (2015). Retrieved from (see Table 1. pp 16-17) 

National Association of Social Workers New Jersey Chapter. (n.d.). Environmental justice is social justice. Retrieved from 


>See additional resources and a lengthened blog post at 

How to cite this blog post:

Linjean, M. (2019, September 13). Promoting Social Justice At the Crossroads: Environmental and Reproductive Justice. (#MacroSW) [Blog Post]. Retrieved from:











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