This paper explores the problematique of reproductive justice in the context of normatively universalistic conceptions of health rights. Taking a ‘history of the present’ approach, it examines normative claims for health as a universal human value (Benatar 2011), enabling the right to health to become the most substantively developed area within applied human rights (Freeman 2002; 2009).
Building upon preceding work (Khoo, 2015) establishing a general inter- and trans- disciplinary approach, I draw from bioethics, applied human rights and sociology to consider solidarity, a key value in public health (Dawson 2011). Sociologically, solidarity is seen to bridge pre-modern and definitively modern ideals of belonging, bonding, and inclusion, focusing on the responsibilities of belonging (Pensky 2008). Human rights concepts of solidarity promise that communal particularities can be transcended, expanding and transforming the bounds of ethics, norms and politics through law. Within bioethics, the concept of solidarity “supports the whole framework of social responsibility”, together with justice and equality (International Bioethics Committee 2010),
The discussion recalls the legacy of conservative interpretations of solidarism within human rights discourses, representing post-revolutionary, postcolonial and post-secular modernities contesting and delimiting universality (eg Moyn 2015). Significant episodes of contention, evasion and confusion are discussed, where conservative social moralities limit abortion, force pregnancy and deny reproductive and sexual health services, information and education (e.g. Bosmans 2006; Beattie 2014, Holland 2014). The ‘liberal’ human rights paradigm appears problematic for normatively gendered ‘vulnerable’ bodies, subject to special, yet contradictory treatment as both ‘less than’ and ‘more than’ autonomous liberal subjects.