Just a Glimpse

Here’s a question about doing good in the world. How could we prevent nearly half a million unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, or maternal death? I was stunned to read recently that the U.S. State Department eliminated American contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that has done just that, year after year. I have to believe that the white men in suits who made that decision cannot begin to imagine its consequences for real women all around the world.

Several decades ago I spent a year working in health in rural Nepal, and learned in my first week of work what family planning services, or not having them, can mean to women of the Global South. I was a nurse practitioner and had signed on with a nonprofit foundation to lead a mobile health team in an area with very limited access to health services. The district had no roads, idyllic mountain scenery, and a deeply impoverished population. I quickly learned that contraception for women was not simply about reducing the inconvenience of having an unplanned birth. Instead it often meant the difference between life and death, sometimes for the mother, and often for the child.

One evening toward the end of my very first week of work, I was approached by a small group of village men who appeared anxious to speak with me. They were accompanied by Sita, one of the women on our staff, who was able to understand my halting Nepali well enough to “interpret” for me when I needed it.