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“We are here to save lives, so we find a solution”

Meet Grace, a She Makes Her Safe Choice healthcare provider in Benin
Photos by Yanick Folly

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Tags: Advocacy, Benin, Safe abortion, She makes her safe choice
My name is Grace. I’m 31 years old and I am a healthcare provider at ABPF in Benin. This is my story.

As a healthcare provider, Grace receives women that need safe abortion care for a wide variety of reasons. As regulations are still restrictive, patients are scared to talk about abortion. And as a healthcare worker she is faced with critique. “I would like to plead with the authorities to put policies in place to protect sexual and reproductive healthcare providers, and especially those in abortion care.”

“We receive all kinds of cases. From someone who was 14-years old, to someone in their 50s who was almost menopausal and was having difficulty keeping the pregnancy. But most of the women we see are married people in their twenties.”

“When the clients come, they are afraid of prejudice and are in a hurry to be attended to. They are very reluctant to talk during the first contact and do not necessarily tell the truth. They lack confidence, due to the fact that the law is restrictive and many do not talk about it. We work on building their confidence before we can listen to them.”

We work on building the patient’s confidence, before we can talk to them about their health

“In order to offer the [abortion] service within the legal framework and to protect ourselves, we ask the patients to come with the person who caused the pregnancy, but many clients lie about this aspect too. Because the law* only allows safe abortion in three conditions, clients make up a story about rape or they say that it is a family member who impregnated them. We do a lot of work behind the scenes to put the woman at ease and then make sure we offer the right care.”

“When women return for follow-up after receiving the service, it is difficult to recognise them because their physical appearance changes. They dress better and are happier and more smiley than the first time. You can see the relief in their eyes and they keep in good contact with us.”

When it comes to working in this field, Grace has faced some fierce resistance. “Our working environment is very mixed. We are subject to harsh criticism from our colleagues and friends. However, when they end up in such a situation, they don’t hesitate to ask for the service. It’s a bit hypocritical, but we are here to save lives, so we try to find a solution.”

“I would like to plead with the authorities to put policies in place to protect sexual and reproductive healthcare providers, and especially abortion care providers. It is important to review the law to broaden the conditions of access to safe abortion services. The need is always urgent and every day there are new cases. If nothing is done, these cases will fall into the wrong hands and this can become dramatic. Even among the people who are most publicly hostile towards us, there are many who seek the service clandestinely.”

* Shortly after talking to provider Grace, the government of Benin adopted a new law that is more progressive in access to abortion care.

Our work on improving access to safe and legal abortions in Benin is part of She Makes Her Safe Choice, our global programme on preventing unintended pregnancies and ending unsafe  abortions.

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