Joshua Corpuz, MS-NU ’22, co-authors paper with Adjunct Professor Kathy Simmonds in nursing journal calling for nurse practitioners to get involved, take a stand, and advocate for the marginalized population most affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark law that guaranteed abortion rights for nearly 50 years, has had severe consequences: trigger laws, court battles, and low-income women and teenagers facing the choice between an unsafe abortion or an unwanted child. 

MGH Institute of Health Professions alumnus Joshua Corpuz, who is a nurse at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, says there’s one more factor that needs to be considered – reproductive justice. Corpuz and IHP Adjunct Professor Kathy Simmonds co-wrote an article on the topic that was recently published in the Journal of Nurse Practitioners entitled, “Empowering the Nurse Practitioner With the Reproductive Justice Framework.” 

For nurses not fully aware of the ramifications surrounding the SCOTUS decision, the paper calls for nurse practitioners to be aware of current events and to be more involved in patient advocacy, while serving as a roadmap for why nurse practitioners should play a role in providing abortion and abortion-related care.

“This article highlights the exacerbated inequalities that we’ll see,” said Corpuz, who graduated from the IHP with a master’s in nursing in May. “This will hopefully inspire nurse practitioners to gain the additional certifications, training, and education to become abortion providers, or at the very least be aware of the situation and mitigate that gap in care that’s going to be further exacerbated now that Roe vs. Wade has been overturned.” 

(Corpuz will be taking his nurse practitioner certification examination with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in late November. He hopes to further develop his education and clinical skillset in providing reproductive care and abortion-adjacent care.)

Beyond being a clinical procedure, the paper points out that abortion is about intersectionality – the lived experiences and identities such as race, sex, gender, socioeconomic status, education, religion, and immigration status. 

“These individual identities, when considered altogether, create a unique experience of how an individual interacts with the world,” write Corpuz and Simmonds. “In the case of abortion, one must consider the multiple identities that affect a patient’s decision to proceed with abortion care and the complex nuances that are part of their identity.”

Corpuz and Simmonds make clear that an abortion decision is not easy, and that the procedure is much more than a visit to the clinic; for the patient, having a child is a life-altering change that brings profound emotions along with possible financial challenges. The authors recommend that nurse practitioners refer to the intersectionality when counseling or providing abortion-related care, and that it’s important to recognize abortion is not solely an issue of life or choice.

The Reproductive Justice Framework 

The idea of reproductive justice originated nearly three decades ago when a dozen Black women coined the term after concluding the singular focus on abortion did not adequately address the oppression that Black women face. 

Reproductive justice, according to the paper, encompasses a space made for women who are minorities, low-income, disabled, or identify with other marginalized segments who have not been fully represented within the reproductive rights movement. The concept entails four tenets: 

•    Right to raise children
•    Right to planned pregnancies
•    Right to terminate unwanted pregnancies
•    Right to expression of sexuality

“Abortion and access to abortion is a human right,” states the paper. “Human rights are inherent, universal, and inalienable, regardless of one’s sex, race, socioeconomic status, creed, or language ….  Reproductive Justice is a framework that analyzes the structures of power and centers the most vulnerable populations at risk of having their reproductive rights denied.”

golden retriever dog with man in scrubs squatting next to it
Nurse Corpuz with Buddy the hospital dog

Looking Ahead

While it might be assumed nurses and nurse practitioners will do everything in their power to mitigate the gap in abortion care, Corpuz doesn’t see it that way.  

“In the end, the patient’s goals of care should be at the center of it all,” he said. “I think the unfortunate part is that sometimes providers might bring in their personal biases or beliefs and not consider the additional factors of why an individual might seek abortion care or reproductive care.”

The paper was the result of Corpuz’s scholarly project at the IHP. He consulted with Simmonds, whose area of scholarly expertise is abortion access, for input and feedback on the drafts. 

“Promoting awareness of the reproductive justice framework among clinicians who provide sexual and reproductive health care is essential,” said Simmonds. “And Josh’s leadership in bringing this article to print in the Journal of Nurse Practitioners is an important contribution.”

It’s not just present-day nurses the paper speaks to; it’s the nurses of tomorrow and the institutions educating them. 

“Integration of reproductive justice into nurse practitioner curricula on sexual and reproductive health could help these clinicians develop a critical lens for acknowledging oppression and the consequences marginalized people face,” the paper says. 

Corpuz hopes the paper informs the healthcare industry that, in his opinion, abortion is not a religious question, or a political question, or a life-or-death question. 

“It’s a morality question,” he says. “We need to take care of our patients, and if we are shy about our opinions, or we just don’t have an opinion, we should take a stand on this issue, and support our patients. That’s the core of why we are all healthcare workers. I’m really hoping that this can help nurse practitioners be informed citizens and play a role in improving patients’ lives and mitigating the social inequalities already being further exacerbated.” 

Finally, the paper reminds nurse practitioners of the duty to be informed and the obligation to be their patients’ advocate, and that by using their knowledge and power, they can be a voice for just laws and practices for the marginalized populations they serve.  

“The important question about abortion is not deciding when life begins, but rather of where one stands when human rights and access to reproductive health are being restricted by an oppressive power,” the paper concludes. “By integrating the reproductive justice framework into clinical practice, NPs can begin to understand that abortion is not just a clinical procedure, but a complex life event that has significant implications for society’s most marginalized people.”