It’s not always easy to be an abortion provider and a champion for women at a time when laws and cultural norms—here in the United States and around the world—prevent women from accessing comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion and post-abortion care.
Even where abortion is legal, stigma can drive women away from trained providers…forcing them to resort to drastic measures like drinking bleach or putting their trust in untrained providers who lack appropriate equipment. The consequences are dire:
As hard as it is for me to watch the slow pace of change, I continue to work on these issues on behalf of millions of women around the world who deserve better.
Prior to joining Pathfinder, I was a practicing family doctor who offered the full spectrum of women’s health, including abortion. I will never forget the surprise and gratitude women expressed when they were treated with respect while seeking an abortion. Too many women expect to be chided while seeking a safe, legal, medical procedure. And this was in the United States, where abortion is legal. For so many women living elsewhere, access to abortion is legally restricted and the stigma only adds to the barriers they face.
This Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, I’m proud to be part of the Pathfinder team working to ensure more women have true access to quality, non-judgmental services. I’m proud that Pathfinder is a leader in advocating against legal restrictions on safe abortion and postabortion care.
From building coalitions to affect legal change to building capacity for true access to abortion and postabortion care, we are working to ensure every woman can decide whether and when to have a child—and that every woman is provided with quality care and treated with dignity, respect, and compassion.
I recently had the opportunity to see our work on the ground in Mozambique where advocacy victories have led to legal changes that are now starting to be implemented. As a former provider, I am especially proud of our mentorship program, and it was so rewarding to see these mentors in action. Our program provides one-on-one support for providers as well as the facility as a whole. Experienced mentors are equipped with a mobile application to help them ensure that providers and facilities are meeting quality standards and aid in collaboratively creating plans for improvement. This mentorship is crucial as it provides a bridge between training and independent clinical practice. What’s more, mentors are able to work with providers to interpret new abortion guidelines as they are rolled out and can help facilitate the transition to safe abortion access. By physically going to where providers are, mentors offer guidance and support that is tailored to the providers’ actual surroundings and barriers; helping them move quickly from theory to practice.
During my trip to Mozambique, I was lucky to accompany one of Pathfinder mentors, pictured above, on a visit to local health facility. I was able to see firsthand the rapport she had established with the providers, how she encouraged the positive aspects of their client interactions while providing necessary corrections when needed. She also worked with the providers and facility head to address client flow issues and improve the facility experience for both the clients and the providers. Mentorship helps to ensure that every woman walking into a Pathfinder-supported facility receives appropriate quality care and also has a positive experience.
We must make sure women have safe access to a full range of quality reproductive health care services, offered without judgment or bias. Help combat stigma—add your voice on september28.org.
Katy Mimno is our senior technical advisor for sexual and reproductive health and rights.