Advocates around the world recognize September 26 as a day of action to increase awareness about expanding women's access to contraception and accurate family planning information. On this year's World Contraception Day, this goal is more important than ever.
The Mexico City Policy prevents organizations like Marie Stopes International (MSI) from providing or even talking about abortion to qualify for US global health funding. Despite its stated intent, the Mexico City Policy puts millions of women and girls at risk of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion by depriving them of vital contraceptive services.
It has been eight months since we first confronted this harmful policy and the fact that, if we fail to fill the gap it creates, millions of women and girls will lose access to our life-saving reproductive healthcare services.
This year on World Contraception Day, for women and girls in the communities where we work, the Mexico City Policy is beginning to bite.
Program closures and final client visits are exposing the devastating consequences of policymakers’ choice to ignore the reproductive health needs of vulnerable women and girls.
Here’s what’s happening right now in three of our country programs.
- CBC News highlights that Marie Stopes outreach vehicles are being returned to the US Government as a result of the Mexico City Policy. Marie Stopes Madagascar used the vehicles to provide free contraception to women in remote areas.
- A program that provided 65,000 young and impoverished women with vouchers for reduced-price services is in danger of closing. In a country where almost two-thirds of the population is under age 25, a lack of affordable contraceptives makes it difficult for young people to pursue safe and healthy futures.
- Outreach teams are 100% funded by the US Government.
- After generous replacement support from other donors, Marie Stopes Zimbabwe will retain nine outreach vehicles. Still, approximately one-third of our 1,200 outreach sites will close by the end of September.
- Affected clients will now have to travel far outside their communities to get the care they previously received from Marie Stopes free of charge.
In Burkina Faso:
- Marie Stopes Burkina Faso has developed a network of outreach teams and Marie Stopes Ladies and Men that are embedded in their communities, reaching their friends and neighbors with family planning services.
- Both programs are funded by the US Government and have already scaled back significantly.
When President Trump signed the Mexico City Policy in January, it rocked advocates and activists who knew the dire implications of such a policy. Now, the women, girls and providers that rely on our services to make their families and communities stronger are beginning to feel the same disappointment. These are their stories:
Nancy, age 28 from Zimbabwe, has three children and could not afford the cost of contraceptive pills before she came to Marie Stopes. She says that "having a long-term method helps me because I feel for now my family is complete."
Alice, age 25 from Zimbabwe, walked nine hours from her home to receive her contraceptive implant from a Marie Stopes outreach team and says “knowing that I can access my chosen method of contraception for free is a relief.”
Eloa is responsible for transporting a team of Marie Stopes Burkina Faso nurses and midwives to rural outreach sites. He also organizes community education sessions on contraceptives that will soon disappear.
In two days, advocates will mark International Safe Abortion Day on September 28. This week serves as a powerful reminder that women and girls deserve the full range of choice when it comes to their reproductive health. Our experience in the field shows that without it, women suffer. If we fail to fill the funding gap created by the Mexico City Policy, the number of women who risk their lives every year to pursue an unsafe abortion will drastically increase.
By 2020 there will be more women of reproductive age than ever before, and the need to meet their demand for contraception has never been more critical.
As program closures continue in the coming months, we will collect the stories of women and girls who rely on our services, as well as the team members who fearlessly deliver them.
This World Contraception Day, you can help us fill the funding gap to ensure that women like Nancy and Alice don't lose out on our life-saving care. Despite the challenging political environment, we are unwavering in our commitment to be there for our clients, no matter what.
Our Global Impact Last Year
women using a MSI
method of contraception
maternal deaths averted
unsafe abortions averted