By Alex Godlewski
Motherhood was never a choice for Loretta Ross.
The women’s rights activist was at Ryerson on Sept. 8 to talk about reproductive justice, a term she helped coin in 1994. She defines the term simply as choosing the right to have a child. At age 15, she was raped by her cousin and left to raise the child on her own.
“My poor son had a complicated life, I loved my son but hated his circumstance. Every time I saw him, I saw my rapist,” Ross said.
She spoke openly about her experiences and the struggles of many women affected by racism, intolerance, and violence.
“If I had reproductive justice, I wouldn’t have had to have a child out of incest. I would have been able to terminate the pregnancy,” Ross said.
Shortly after the assault, she got into activism.
“I don’t think that what happened [to me] should happen to any woman.”
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) held Reimagining Reproductive Justice as part of DisOrientation week, a series of events which focus on social justice and activism.
Pascale Diverlus, vice-president equity of the RSU, has been a fan of Ross for a long time. She said she believed Ryerson students would benefit from the guest speaker.
Alexander Waddling, a fourth-year psychology student, said he was surprised that many men weren’t at the event.
Waddling said reproductive justice means more to him than just carrying a child and that men should be more involved in the issue.
“I think it’s important to have a general empathy for human beings.”
When Ross was pregnant in Texas during the 60s, she had to fight for her right to finish high school. Many schools were expelling pregnant girls, but Ross always valued education.
Her post-secondary education only paused when she decided to pursue activism.
Years later, Ross graduated with a degree in women’s studies at 55.
“You can choose whether or not to be defined by your oppression,” Ross said.
Now a grandmother, Ross said she doesn’t regret motherhood but wished she had her own choice.
“Every child deserves unconditional love from their mother, but I would have liked it to be better for the both of us.”