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childbearing women, ethics, health equity, nursing methodology research, reproductive justice, social inclusion



  1. McGlothen-Bell, Kelly
  2. McGrath, Jacqueline M.
  3. Brownell, Elizabeth A.
  4. Shlafer, Rebecca J.
  5. Crawford, Allison D.


Background: Historically, childbearing women from diverse and systematically hard-to-reach populations have been excluded from nursing research. This practice limits the generalizability of findings. Maximizing research strategies to meet the unique needs of these populations must be a priority.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to provide methodological context for the comprehensive application of reproductive justice strategies to guide research methods and promote engagement of underrepresented childbearing women while decreasing systemic bias.


Methods: In this article, we use a reproductive justice lens to characterize and define strategies for enhancing ethical and equitable engagement in research involving childbearing women who are often systematically underrepresented using a case study approach. Using a specific case study exemplar, the core tenets of reproductive justice are outlined and affirm the need to advance research strategies that create ethical engagement of diverse populations, transform oppressive social structures, and shift research paradigms so research objectives intentionally highlight the strengths and resiliency inherent to the targeted communities.


Results: We begin by describing parallels between the tenets of reproductive justice and the ethical principles of research (i.e., respect for persons, beneficence, and justice). We then apply these tenets to conceptualization, implementation (recruitment, data management, and retention), and dissemination of research conducted with childbearing women from diverse backgrounds who are systemically underrepresented. We highlight our successful research strategies from our case study example of women with histories of incarceration.


Discussion: To date, outcomes from our research indicate the need for multilevel strategies with a focus on respectful, inclusive participant and key community partner engagement; the time investment in local communities to promote equitable collaboration; encouragement of the patient's autonomous right to self-determination; and mitigation of power imbalances. Nurse researchers are well positioned to advance research justice at the intersection of reproductive justice and ethics to fully engage diverse populations in advancing health equity to support the best health outcomes.