The birth control pill 50 years later

More than a right: the pill hits 50

By Patricia Leidl | Featured on Conversations for a Better World

Women who want access to contraception but are denied that right suffer illness, loss of quality of life, and even death. Let’s ensure that all women have that right.

I first met Zhazia while working on a story about Afghan widows for USAID. Like all of the women I interviewed, her prematurely wasted features spoke far more eloquently of the harshness of her existence than any words. Like many Afghan peasant girls, Zhazia was married off at the age of 13 to a man old enough to be her grandfather. Every year she dutifully gave birth to one child after another. By the time her husband died she had delivered 12—four of whom had died before they had reached the age of five. When I met her she was 29-years-old.

Countless untold stories

Zhazia’s story speaks to the reality of the countless women who are dispossessed of the means to limit the number and space their pregnancies. I have met Zhazias all over the world—in the hauntingly rugged volcanic regions of Guatemala, in rocky villages in Tajikistan, lush Mexican jungles and in the dry hinterlands of Zimbabwe. As well as having no way to regulate their own fertility, all of these women grapple with chronic ill-health—fistulas, prolapsed uteruses and other reproductive ills—in addition to an inability to properly feed, clothe and educate their children.

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