Megha Satyanarayana, Chief Opinion Editor at Scientific American, discusses Reproductive Justice in this exclusive Q&A.
I am the Chief Opinion Editor at Scientific American. I recruit, edit, and publish commentary from experts, including underrepresented voices, on issues of importance in science and technology as they relate to the public.
Our audience is a broad swath of people who are curious about how the world works and what their place is in it. This includes everyone mentioned above.
The bread and butter of my work is societal impact. Opinion, editorials, and commentary are meant to be responsive to world events, to explain the different sides of an argument in popular culture, and to affect and influence public discourse. Our goal is to engage readers.
All of them. Literally, all of them. Scientific American covers all aspects of science, whether social, physical, life, or otherwise. And what we publish in the opinion section covers thought and research on every aspect of the UN’s sustainability goals, whether climate change, conservation, alleviating poverty, promoting healthier living conditions, or promoting gender equality. We do not shy away from controversial topics, such as abortion and gun control, because these issues matter, not just to readers, but society as a whole.
I would not be where I am today without the work of my forebears in ensuring my ability to choose when and how to start a family. I have long believed that the life of the person carrying a pregnancy is of equal, if not greater importance than the fetus within, and that reproductive justice is more than just the right to choose. It’s about the right to thrive on your own terms, the right to live a life with bodily autonomy and spiritual integrity. This is a right that we automatically guarantee to men, if not in law, then in culture. It is fundamentally unjust to deny it to anyone who identifies as female.
This is such a tough question, because reproductive justice is one of the most thorny issues in the United States, at least on a political level. Americans are mostly in favor of letting people who can get pregnant decide how and when to do so. We aren’t predominantly a forced-birth nation. But many of our politicians disagree, and have worked hard for the past several decades to erode this basic right. The loss of this right is catastrophic. Science firmly supports the idea that access to all aspects of reproductive health care is safe, promotes good physical and mental health, and sets people up to be successful, financially, educationally, or otherwise.
The best support starts internally - support employees who need to make these decisions, whether by picking health insurance options that support reproductive freedoms or allowing employees the time and flexibility to carry out whatever choice they make. How you can support researchers and society is by elevating the voices of scientists who can get pregnant via news and opinion, promoting flexibility in publishing timelines to allow for reproductive choices, and turning a very critical eye to poorly designed RJ research, and research funded by groups that believe in forced birth.
This is a difficult question because societal impact is so completely subjective. The funding of research should be tied to ethical treatment of the humans involved, remediation plans, should something go awry, and the inclusion of local talent, local thinking and representation at all levels, most importantly, leadership.
About the Author:
Megha Satyanarayana is Chief Opinion Editor at Scientific American