It was September 2011 and I was on my first assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières. Setting foot in the busy maternity hospital in West Africa, I was completely unprepared for what I found: women arriving on death’s door, with complications like heavy bleeding and septic shock. In the operating theatre, examining many of these women, I found trauma marks on the cervix, caused by objects such as sticks that had been inserted to terminate their pregnancies. Examples of unsafe abortion that had resulted in horrific injury.
I realised the sheer desperation that must have driven these women to do this, and how limited their options must have been. They were willing to resort to any means to terminate their pregnancy, even while knowing the huge risk to their own life.