The first symposium contribution is a phenomenological study of formerly incarcerated Black women's maternal health and well-being. Drawing on Black feminist, anti-carceral, and anti-violence frameworks, this study foregrounds the ways that maternal care for incarcerated women neglects their violence histories--particularly sexual exploitation, trauma, and domestic violence. In doing so, violence is perpetuated again through reenactment of trauma, in addition to direct acts of violence, such as shackling during childbirth. This study highlights the importance of examining Black women's experiences of incarceration and the promise of emancipatory and anti-carceral strategies rooted in reproductive justice for social work scholarship.
The second symposium study uses qualitative methods to foreground incarcerated mothers' envisioned futures (e.g., their plans, hopes, and fears) and examines how they use envisioning their futures as a strategy of resistance that re-affirms their humanity and dignity. These incarcerated mothers' visions of the future reveal the various ways in which motherhood identity is negotiated, reclaimed, yearned for, and contested in the face of reproductive oppressions. These findings highlight and provide depth to a crucial aspect of reproductive justice: securing and protecting the right for incarcerated mothers to parent safely and with dignity.
The final symposium study investigates the role of social work in the criminalization of pregnancy--state intervention in a pregnant individual's life that aims to restrict their bodily self-determination because they are pregnant. This study reviews recent policies that advance criminalization of pregnancy and includes landscape analysis of social welfare research. Several types of policies that advance pregnancy criminalization are identified, including policies that consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse and those that intend to regulate behavior during pregnancy. Drawing on Street-Level Bureaucracy Theory, this study argues that discretion in social work practice mediates the role of law in pregnancy criminalization and identifies implications for social work scholarship and education.
Through an investigation of pregnancy, mothering, and criminalization, this symposium centers reproductive justice and the possibilities it offers for social work scholarship and practice. For communities living at the intersection of over surveillance/criminalization and whose parenting and fertility are devalued, reproductive justice is an important means to advance social, political, and racial justice.