As some of you know, I joined Marie Stopes fresh from campus, when I was a naïve 20-year old with little experience of the real world. For a long time, I talked about my work while avoiding the a-word, instead shifting the subject to family planning or safe motherhood. Abortion sounded dirty and controversial. There are a few stories which changed the way I felt about our work.
In London, I became involved in a group that would help Irish women come to England to have abortions. The law in Ireland is incredibly restrictive – and women need to pay a great deal of money to come to England for services. I realized that if these women were brave enough to leave their homes and families to seek a safe service, I had to be brave enough to talk about it.
In Uganda I worked closely with a sex workers’ union to design an integrated FP / HIV programme. Our contact, I’ll call her Patience, had suffered through four illegal, degrading and dangerous backstreet abortions. I realized that if she was brave enough to advocate for other women, I had to be brave enough to talk about it.
In Papua New Guinea, I managed providers who lived under constant threat of violence from the families and partners of our clients. I realized that if they are brave enough to provide services with very little support, I had to be brave enough to talk about it.
In Kenya, I meet women from all walks of life who remember their own procedures as humiliating, sad, painful or traumatic, but now go out of their way to ensure their friends and relatives reach us safely. I realize that if they are brave enough to counter the stigma of being an abortion client, I need to be brave enough to talk about it.So these days I am vocal and proud about our work. I feel incredibly blessed to work alongside brave, passionate and caring providers every day.
So these days I am vocal and proud about our work. I feel incredibly blessed to work alongside brave, passionate and caring providers every day.