At 19, I had my first blood clot. It collected in my right eye, and I nearly lost my vision. What’s funny is that it didn’t seem dire at the time; as a sophomore in college, I was more concerned with sex—and the fact that doctors were telling me I could no longer use my current birth control. They felt that a particular contraceptive hormone may have played a role, and prescribed another method.
Now—10 years, two more clots, and 5 kinds of birth control later—I have limited options. My husband and I do not want a child, nor do I want to face an eventual abortion. I rely on contraceptives. The future I want depends on them. For me, even with my very particular health concerns, they are entirely worth the risk.
What about you? What lengths would you go to for family planning?
In developing countries, more than 200 million women want, but cannot access contraceptives. I heard this statistic on my first day at Pathfinder International. I admit that for months, this number, in its enormity, was inconceivable. What do 200 million women look like? Who are they? Do their “obstacles” resemble mine?
In the poorest, most underserved countries, women’s reproductive rights are impeded daily. Learning from the experiences of women served through Pathfinder’s projects—the gender inequities, legal and religious barriers, absent doctors, contraceptive stock outs, and extreme misinformation they face in their communities—I am only beginning to understand.
For example, a recent focus group survey from a village in Western Tanzania, where Pathfinder will soon launch a new community-based project, shed some light on exactly what “misinformation” means: “Focus group participants believe side effects of family planning include a greater risk of cancer, sterility, weakness, and an accumulation of pills in a woman’s stomach.”
(You read that last part right.)
And in Pakistan, where large families are common and the use of birth control is often condemned, women continue to have children too close together. The result: Pakistan has the eighth highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies—through access to contraceptives—can save lives. Yet, women continue to face barriers that I do not.
Pathfinder is working to change that, and I am proud to be a part of it. This month, with your help, we can do more to ensure that all women have options: http://www.pathfinder.org/breakingbarriers