Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Program

The Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice (RHRJ) certificate provides undergraduate students at the Five Colleges with an opportunity to develop a strong understanding of the social, economic, legal, and political conditions that influence reproduction in the U.S. and transnationally.

Scholarship on RHRJ issues examines the impact of reproductive policies not only on individuals, but also on communities, with particular attention to communities that have been historically marginalized. The field also includes study of the history of social movements for reproductive empowerment, including the movements for women's liberation, disability rights, racial justice, economic justice, LGBTQ rights, and the women's health, reproductive freedom, and reproductive justice movements.

Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Program

On This Page


To join the Five College Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice mailing list, please send an email to with "RHRJ listserv request" in the subject line.

Read our Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter ~

Watch a recording of our panel from October 2020, The Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Future of Feminist Jurisprudence.

RHRJ Certificate Advisors and Steering Committee

Amrita Basu*, Political Science, Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies (on sabbatical Spring 2023)
Sheila Jaswal, Chemistry, Biochemistry-Biophysics                                                     
Jallicia Jolly, American Studies, Black Studies (Steering Committee Member Spring 2023)
Kristen Luschen, Education Studies
Jen Manion, History, Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies (on sabbatical 2022-23)
Leah Schmalzbauer, American Studies, Sociology
Christine N. Peralta, History, Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies

*Steering Committee Member

Elizabeth Conlisk, Public Health

Cora Fernandez Anderson*, Comparative and Reproductive Politics
Jacquelyne Luce, Gender Studies
Liz Markovits, Politics

*Steering Committee Member

Carrie Baker*, Study of Women and Gender
Leslie King, Sociology

*Steering Committee Member

Laura Briggs, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Aline Gubrium, Public Health
Betsy Krause, Anthropology
Kirsten Leng, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (on leave during AY 2021-22)
Jennifer L. Nye*, History
Banu Subramaniam, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Svati Shah, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Favorite Iradukunda, Nursing

*Steering Committee Member

Marisa Pizzi, Deputy Director, Collective Power for Reproductive Justice
Jacquelyne Luce, Director, Five College Women’s Studies Research Center


Overview of the Certificate Program

By completing a special project and interdisciplinary coursework, students are prepared for graduate school, as well as careers in law, science, medicine, health, politics, social work, and community organizing:

  • Understand how race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality influence reproduction
  • Examine the hyper-medicalization of childbirth for some and the lack of reproductive health care for others
  • Understand reproductive technologies and their impact on kinship structures and welfare and childcare policies
  • Investigate how the health care industry, the prison industrial complex, and the foster care system influence reproductive decisions and policies
  • Learn to think critically about the legal barriers to reproductive health care
  • Be able to use human rights and reproductive justice analyses to frame social policy

Similar to an academic minor, the Five College RHRJ certificate enables students to investigate these issues beyond what might be available on their individual campus.

The certificate is available to undergraduate students at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Students from all campuses as encouraged to join in RHRJ activities and courses.

Focus of Study

Students pursuing the RHRJ certificate take courses across a wide variety of academic disciplines that address diverse issues such as:

  • the biology of reproduction
  • legal barriers to abortion and birth control
  • the hyper-medicalization of childbirth
  • reproductive health care access
  • reproductive technologies and kinship structures
  • welfare policy
  • childcare and childcare policies
  • reproduction and labor
  • gender justice
  • adoption

Students also learn to think critically about social institutions such as science, medicine, technology, schools, housing, law enforcement, labor and prisons that produce racial and class differentiation in childhood and beyond.

Through the required special project component, students are encouraged to take what they learn out of the classroom and into an appropriate community-engaged experience where they can connect their academic pursuits with policy and advocacy work. Students work with their certificate advisor to connect with campus-based centers, as well as local and national policy and advocacy organizations, to pursue internships and other opportunities and learn through hands-on experience.

RHRJ Graduates

Students who complete the interdisciplinary RHRJ program gain knowledge and experience that prepares them for graduate school and for careers in law, science, medicine, health, politics, social work and community organizing. They will be able to:

  • Understand the ways that race, class, sexuality and nation influence the reproduction of individuals and communities
  • Address questions about how people engage with having and raising children in different circumstances
  • Learn about the impact of reproductive policies on individuals and communities, with particular attention to diverse and marginalized ethnic groups, cultures and nations
  • Use human rights and reproductive justice analyses to frame social policy
  • Become effective practitioners, researchers, policy makers and advocates

Certificate Requirements

There are two components to the RHRJ certificate: courses and a special project.

1. Complete at least 6 approved courses, including:

  • One foundational course
  • One transnational/global course
  • One upper-level (300 or above) course

All courses used to fulfill the certificate requirements must be selected from the courses currently approved to count toward this certificate by the RHRJ steering committee.

2. Complete a special project

Students must also complete a special project that will help them gain an experiential understanding of reproductive health, rights and/or justice among community-based groups.  This requirement may be completed through an independent study project, thesis or other course work that engages the student with issues of reproductive health, rights or justice and meaningfully incorporates the perspectives of community-based groups. However, this special project will only receive academic credit at Amherst College if it is part of a regularly offered course or a special topics course of which the experiential component is only one part.  Students must consult with their RHRJ advisor about how to fulfill this requirement.


Please note that this list may not include all courses that meet the certificate requirements.  If you have questions about what courses can count toward the certificate, please contact your RHRJ certificate advisor.

foundational course has 90–100% reproductive health, rights, and justice content, as reflected in the course title and description. Foundational courses introduce students to reproductive politics, including the reproductive health, rights and justice frameworks; introduce students to thinking intersectionally about reproductive issues, for example, how gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, disability and nationality intersect to shape women’s experiences of reproductive oppression, and their resistance strategies; and teach students to think systemically about reproductive issues, rather than just individually, that is, about the impact of reproductive politics not only on individuals, but also on communities, and how social, economic, legal and political conditions impact reproduction. The material may be covered through any disciplinary or interdisciplinary lens, including history, sociology, legal studies, public policy, women, gender and sexuality studies, political science, journalism, religious studies, American studies, transnational studies, etc. 

transnational/global course has 25% reproductive health, rights, and justice content, as defined above, with a transnational/global (i.e. non-U.S.) focus. 

An additional course has 25% reproductive health, rights, and justice content, as defined above.

All courses used to fulfill the certificate requirements must be selected from the courses currently approved to count toward this certificate by the RHRJ steering committee.

Fall 2023 RHRJ Courses: Foundational

Subject Course # Sect # Course Title Instructor(s) Institution Meeting Times

Fall 2023 RHRJ Courses: Transnational/Global

Subject Course # Sect # Course Title Instructor(s) Institution Meeting Times
HST 253 01 Women & Gender in Contemp Eur Darcy C. Buerkle Smith College TU TH 2:45 PM - 4:00 PM
SPN 250sm 01 T-Sex&Medieval City Ibtissam Bouachrine Smith College TU TH 1:20 PM - 2:35 PM

Fall 2023 RHRJ Courses: Additional

Subject Course # Sect # Course Title Instructor(s) Institution Meeting Times
BIO 351ep 01 Sem:Evolu:T-Epigenetics Laura Aline Katz Smith College M 1:40 PM - 4:20 PM
GOV 305ct 01 Sem:Amer-T-ConservativeTrad Claire Leavitt Smith College TU 1:20 PM - 4:00 PM
SWG 150 01 Intro Women & Gender Kelly P. Anderson Smith College TU TH 9:25 AM - 10:40 AM
SWG 150 02 Intro Women & Gender Kelly P. Anderson Smith College TU TH 10:50 AM - 12:05 PM
SWG 222 01 Gender, Law and Policy Carrie N. Baker Smith College M W F 10:50 AM - 12:05 PM
SWG 241 01 White Supremacy/ Age of Trump Loretta Ross Smith College TU TH 2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Student Profiles

The Five College Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice program has only been around for a few years, but our students are already making an impact on and off campus. Below, read profiles of current students and recent graduates to learn about their course of study and plans for the future, and the value of studying reproductive justice.

"A liberal arts education,” says Sarah Flores Shannon ’17, “is about giving people the tools they need in order to make the best decisions for themselves—and for the world around them.”

The anthropology major from Falls Church, Va., looks at much of the world through that broad, interdisciplinary lens, both in and out of the classroom.

An anthropology major with a focus on reproductive justice in the U.S. and abroad, Flores Shannon is also the first Smith student to graduate with a Five College certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice. The certificate’s experiential requirement prompted Flores Shannon to spend her junior year in Havana—making her the first person in her family to travel to Cuba since her mother left the island nation nearly 60 years ago.

March 2021 update:

In case you missed it, here is a recent Washington Post op-ed by the first RHRJ Certificate graduate from Smith College, Sarah Flores Shannon. Sarah is currently the senior field coordinator for the Virginia office of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. The Latina Institute builds Latina/x power to fight for the fundamental human right to reproductive health, dignity, and justice.  It is a national organization headquartered in New York City, with offices in Washington, D.C., Florida, New York, Texas, and Virginia. Congratulations to Sarah and Smith College—it’s so wonderful to see Certificate graduates doing great work in the world!

Article credit: Aria Bracci

From reproductive justice to immigration law, Nargis Aslami's activism spans from present organizing to future practice. She discusses how the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, as well as other resources at UMass, have built a foundation for her work. Nargis was the recipient of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts Achievement Award, the Henry and Jean Hall Humanities and Fine Arts Scholarship Fund Award, and William F. Field Alumni Scholar Award and will be serving as a Legal Assistant Intern for Student Legal Services in Fall 2017.

What led you to declare a major in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass?

I took "Intro to Women’s Studies" freshman year, second semester, as a Gen. Ed. It was so cool. All the content was really interesting, and it was what I was passionate about—I just didn’t know it coming into college. I was initially an English major.

We talked about sexism, and that’s so basic, but it still was shocking to me that there was an academic discipline that studied this. I had no idea that this existed in the first place, but then I came in, and I took this class, and we talked about all of these incredibly real things that no one talks about, that nobody talked to us about in high school. It was really great and super important. It made me feel something (whereas reading James Joyce doesn’t make me feel anything, you know?). That doesn’t have an impact on my life, but Women’s Studies? This is real stuff that we’re talking about, and we’re trying to change the world. That’s why I switched into WGSS.

How did your WGSS classes motivate you to pursue further work outside of the classroom?

For me, reading isn’t enough. It’s really good to build your knowledge and be educated on these topics—that happens in the classroom, and that’s really important. But when we’re sitting in the classroom and learning about disproportionately high rates of homelessness and incarceration in communities of color, that’s just not enough, and WGSS majors are in this field of study because they want to be making some sort of tangible change.

Reading about Foucault is really great and important, but what is that doing? It’s frustrating sitting in a class and reading about all of these systems of oppression and recognizing that there are reasons why sexual violence exists. What are we doing to stop it? What are we doing to decrease those numbers of people that are being assaulted? I do value the academic theory and having this theoretical knowledge because it informs activism, and it informs the practical work that we’re doing, but in a time like this, when real people are being targeted, the practical work is important.

In what ways do your studies overlap with the work that you’ve done?

I think that my studies overlap primarily with my work at CLPP [Civil Liberties and Public Policy], especially because what I’m studying in the classroom is reproductive justice—it is reproductive rights—and that’s what I’m working with at CLPP. A lot of the stuff that I learn in the classroom provides me with information to take to Student Group and information to relay to the students that I’m planning these meetings for. It’s really great. It’s really helpful.

Sexual assault obviously revolves around misogyny, internalized homophobia and blatant homophobia, racism. It all relies on these systems of oppression that exist, and these forms of discrimination that are out there. It just informs the way that people choose to display their power over people. So, yes, theory is important. Foucault is important in this instance. If you’re thinking about Foucault and his theory of power and how there’s power everywhere you go—you’re never free from power—that’s true, especially in terms of sexual violence. You are always one step below somebody else in the hierarchy of power.

So, in some instances, my studies are informing what I’m doing, and in some instances, what I’m doing is a repetition of my studies.

How did you first get involved with Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP), the organization that you work for at Hampshire College?

I was taking Theories of Social Justice, a WGSS class with Ann Ferguson, and she provided the students with an option to do a practicum—she had several different organizations to choose from. There was Arise for Social Justice, some others, and then there was CLPP. I had just read Killing the Black Body, so reproductive justice and rights were on my mind. This was a really great opportunity to get involved, and I had this professor who could guide me through the process of getting involved, so I joined the Student Group, which is what I now direct.

When I first joined, it was a weekly meeting in the Spring semester. I was on the Abortion Speakout committee, and I helped plan the Abortion Speakout for the conference. That was the first.

And now you just finished planning and running the annual CLPP conference! What was the most rewarding part of this challenging process?

Honestly, the most rewarding thing was seeing all of these students organize their specific events. It was remarkable to see how much power students have, how much they can do, and how little we give them credit for. It was remarkable to see the students on the Support Team be there every minute of the conference; there was someone always there. They were well-equipped. They were ready to go. They had their phones. They had their cute little fanny packs and their resource bags. It was incredible.

I haven’t been to many conferences, but I personally would never have thought of creating a Support Team for a conference in the way that we have it at CLPP—the way that we always have two to four people on shift, ready to go and provide these people with support. They go to a training during the weekend to be able to provide the support. And our entertainment committee—they put on this incredible event.

In addition to being on the same stage as Wendy Davis and Shanelle Matthews—it’s just incredible being on the same stage as those people—the most rewarding part of it was seeing that I spent this entire year leading this Student Group, and they killed it. It was so incredible to see that students can do so much if we give them the space to do it. I’m just so proud.

Any given week, you find yourself commuting between two towns, two campuses, and various roles as student, intern, hotline operator, and co-coordinator. How do you stay motivated?

People have been asking me this question a lot, and I keep asking myself the same thing. There’s a difference between staying motivated and just “keeping on keeping on.” This work is real life. There’s no stopping. There’s no, “If I take a step back…” I can’t take a step back. Yes, the work will keep happening, but we need as many people as we can get involved to stay involved and to keep doing this work.

We need people doing this work, and I want to be doing this work, and I keep doing it. And it’s hard. It’s exhausting.  But people need to be doing it, and so I’m doing it.

You plan to go to law school after graduation. How do you plan to apply a law degree to your social justice work?

I’m really excited about this. Still working it out. I’m viewing the law as a tool. That’s really downplaying this whole process, because law school is expensive and I’m spending three years of my life going after this degree. So it’s not just a tool, but it’s one more thing that I can add to this collection of tools and skills that I have, in order to continue making change. Being able to understand the Constitution, being able to understand if Trump’s immigration ban is unconstitutional—I need to go to law school to understand this, and I want to do that.

I want to be able to say, “This is not okay because of this,” and not just because I morally oppose this ban, but because it is inherently, legally not acceptable. Sometimes that’s the only way you can stop something. You have to go to court. You have to have a judge, a Supreme Court justice, say, in a court opinion, this is illegal, and you can’t move forward with this.

There’s that whole conflict of needing to compromise and “work within the system”—a system that I don’t agree with. But I hope that once I get this law degree and I understand the law, I’ll be able to take down these policies and laws that, morally, I know are wrong but I want to take a step further. I want to actually take it to court and be able to say, “This is wrong, not just because it hurts me and a lot of people, but because it’s against the Constitution or against this precedent that you already had, that you already put in a Supreme Court opinion.”

Not only do I want to take these awful things to court, but I also just want to be a person that can provide legal services to undocumented immigrants or a survivor of domestic violence or a person that was assaulted—anything. I just want to work with the people that don’t have these resources available to them. And, hopefully, I will be in a financial situation at some point where I can do this pro bono. But who knows?


This article was originally published on the UMass College of Humanities and Fine Arts website in spring 2017, and is republished here by permission. See

Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar

The Five College Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to share knowledge about the work being done locally and internationally in the field of reproductive politics, as well as to discuss challenges and opportunities for collaboration. Numerous faculty who have presented their work-in-progress at a seminar have gone on to publish articles and books. Members of the Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar conceived of the undergraduate Five College certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, wrote the proposal, and shepherded the Certificate into existence in 2015. Finally, the Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar serves as an intellectual and scholarly support and community for faculty teaching courses for the Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Certificate Program. We aim to hold at least two seminars per academic year and are appreciative of the administrative and financial support provided by the Five College Consortium.  

Contact Us

Program Co-Chairs:

Cora Fernandez-AndersonAssistant Professor of Politics, Mount Holyoke

Jennifer L. Nye, Lecturer in Law and Social Justice, Department of History, UMass Amherst

Five College Staff Liaison:

April Shandor, Academic Programs Coordinator



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