Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Reproductive Justice Story Project?
The Reproductive Justice Story Project is an independent grassroots organization founded in 2017, directly motivated by negative patient experiences in Ontario, and grounded in the knowledge that informed decision-making, patient autonomy, and consensual trauma-informed care are reproductive justice issues.
We exist to bring attention specifically to mistreatment and abuse within our healthcare system as a result of a culture that is not always patient-centred and does not consistently prioritize informed decision-making and consent.
We’re using our platform to speak up about disrespectful and abusive care during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and while accessing other forms of reproductive healthcare, in order to hold harmful systems accountable and influence change across the province.
Our current work revolves around the Community Story Blog. On social media, we share the Community Story Blog submissions along with articles, resources & information.
Future projects in the works include an Ontario-wide patient feedback survey and patient advocacy resources. The report for our inaugural independent survey for patients of the St. Joe's Toronto Family Birthing Centre is complete and available online here.
What is The Community Story Blog?
The Community Story Blog was launched in January 2018. It is an online space where we publish story submissions from across Ontario. We're welcoming your stories of mistreatment, disrespect, discrimination, negligence, or abuse at the hands of healthcare professionals during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, pregnancy & infant loss, abortion, fertility care, hysterectomy/tubal ligation, treatment for PCOS/endometriosis, or while accessing other forms of reproductive healthcare or perinatal mental healthcare. If you don't see a story like yours on the blog yet, please consider sending it in anyway.
We aim to provide a communal space for stories to be widely shared that might not otherwise have a platform.
Click here for the story submission form, or email your contribution to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What's the point?
We hope that sharing these personal stories in a very public manner will help break the silence and start a larger conversation about the culture of reproductive healthcare in Ontario.
Why go public? Shouldn't we just take up our complaints with the people involved?
We're going public with these stories because there is so little transparency and accountability in professional complaints channels. For the few who are able to speak up, the process of doing so can sometimes feel disempowering, disappointing, or re-traumatizing and does not always provide a sense of justice and closure, or bring about meaningful change at an institutional level.
This doesn't mean that speaking up or filing complaints is futile - it just means it will take many more of us speaking out together, loudly and publicly, to forcibly bring about change in the culture of reproductive healthcare in Ontario.
We hope that the stories shared here on the Community Story Blog will help illuminate the range of issues faced by patients today, while holding individuals and abusive systems accountable and encouraging stakeholders to come together to imagine possible solutions.
I'm thinking about filing a complaint, but I'm not sure where to start.
If your negative experience took place at a hospital, consider filing a complaint with their patient relations department. See our Resources page for information about also filing a formal complaint with your healthcare provider's professional college.
We recognize that speaking up in any way may be difficult, and certainly not possible or safe for everyone, but we do believe it can be worthwhile if you're up for it.
Hospitals, clinics, and care providers need to hear this type of feedback in order to be pressured to make changes for future patients. Healthcare professionals need to be held accountable for harmful behaviour in order to be pressured to invest in retraining and relearning for themselves and their departments.
We'd also welcome you to share stories of going through the complaints process on the blog. Share your documents or your memories of the response you received.
Can my story be published on the blog?
If elements of your healthcare experience felt traumatic, disrespectful, disempowering, cruel, frustrating, unprofessional, hostile, discriminatory, inappropriate, or abusive we'd love to hear from you. You're invited to share the good and bad parts of your experience.
We ask that you share specifics like where and approximately when your experience took place. You can remain anonymous on the blog, but you must provide a valid email address so we are able to contact you.
But I'm not a great writer, what should I say? How should I say it?
Just share your own true story in your own words! Tell us what stood out for you in your own experience. What was missing from your care that might have made a difference for you? What has been the impact? What could your care providers have done differently that might've helped your experience to feel less negative, inappropriate, or traumatic?
Sometimes sharing how it all made you feel can be a good place to start.
Once submitted, your story will be proofread and formatted for the blog. You'll notice the submission form is organized into a few separate questions but your answers will be posted in one piece, without the questions themselves. You'll have a chance to report any errors or changes to be made, and provide a photo if you wish.
Some themes that continue to come up in story submissions and in the news include:
•lack of respect, empathy, compassion
•poor bedside manner, poor communication
•ignoring or dismissing patient concerns, not listening
•bullying or pressure to submit to care provider's plans
•shaming, mocking, & belittling comments from care providers
•care without consent - nonconsensual procedures & interventions
•unnecessary interventions (routine episiotomy, using a patient's body to train students)
•disrespectful & dehumanizing treatment, discrimination & prejudgement
•ineffective complaints processes, little accountability
•lack of opportunity for informed choice or consent
•insufficient pain relief or labour support
•unrealistic time constraints
•lack of privacy & dignity
•threats, lies, coercion
The submission form contains some personal questions. What does my age/race/sexual orientation/etc... have to do with my story?
This question is totally optional. For some folks, a negative or troubling reproductive healthcare experience might be one of their first, or only, experiences of trauma, discrimination, or injustice. But for many others, this is not the case.
The submission form offers a space to talk about how multiple aspects of your ownidentity (like demographic factors, physical characteristics, and life circumstances) may have come together to inform your experience and your interactions with healthcare providers.
Did you feel your care providers made assumptions about you based on parts of your identity or appearance? Did you feel unfairly judged or discriminated against? Did they talk down to you, or make inappropriate comments? Did you feel they were fully able to listen, support you, and meet your unique needs? Did your experience reactivate troubling memories of past events?
Share as much or as little as you're comfortable sharing if it helps you to tell your story.
I've submitted my story, what happens next?
Thank you so much! This project would not be possible without you.
If you've left out any key information needed in order to share your post, or if we have questions about your submission, we will need to contact you before it is published. Please double-check that your email is spelled correctly before you submit.
If your submission is good to go, you'll be contacted at the email address you provided with the link to your published post. If you have a photo you'd be comfortable sharing along with your story, you'll have an opportunity to send it in at that time.
This can sometimes take a while, so thank you for your patience. Feel free to get in touch anytime with questions.
We would like to respectfully acknowledge that the land on which The Reproductive Justice Story Project is based in Tkaronto (Toronto) is the traditional territory of the Wendat, the Anishnaabek, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit. We acknowledge the intergenerational impacts of settler-colonial violence and their implications on Indigenous reproductive health, rights, and justice - historically and into the present day.