Available statistics from Marie Stopes Uganda (MSU) show that it is giving a valuable contribution to our health services. Of the nearly one million people it has provided with family planning services, especially in maternal and reproductive health, nearly 400,000 unintended pregnancies have been prevented; about 90, 000 unsafe abortions; and, close to one thousand deaths of pregnant women, have been averted. In the process the country has been saved 68 billion shillings.
The perception created in the minds of Ugandans is that Marie Stopes is an organization that is there to facilitate abortions. And this has infuriated the Christian congregations and rights advocates, who rightly, are against abortion as an act of murdering the unborn babies. So, it works in their favour when they hear that the new US Donald Trump Administration has stopped donations to organizations that have been benefitting from American funding.
MSU is one of such international NGOs, whose major funds have been coming from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Other lesser, but consistent donors are: the Department for International Development (DFID), the United Nations Population Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the Lucile and Packard Foundation and the Australian Aid.
If nothing else, Trump’s action against abortion should be welcomed by the people of Uganda. Indeed, even our laws prevent abortion except in extreme cases: for instance, in cases that go against the grain of morality, like if the unborn child is as a result of rape; or, if the pregnancy is likely to end up in the death of the mother, or any such case that clearly endangers the life of the mother.
What is therefore needed is to clear the image created in the minds of the general public that Marie Stopes is for abortion. Secondly, there will be a requirement for other funding.
Dr. Marie Stopes, the founder of the charity, was a British scientist in the first half of the Twentieth Century, who founded the organization as a result of her own pregnancy mishap. In fact, Stopes was strongly against the termination of a pregnancy; and during her lifetime her clinics did not offer abortions.
Stopes regarded that birth control was the only means for families to use in order to limit the number of offspring. The nurses at Stopes’ clinics had to sign a declaration not to help the pregnant women terminate the pregnancy. The clinics were open to married women for knowledge about reproductive health. Dr. Stopes was for alternatives for families and to increase knowledge about birth control and the reproductive system. Thus, birth control must not be at the expense of the unborn baby.
But more than that, in Uganda, MSU has been into other areas of health care. MSU clinics offer medical consultation, the management of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and all other out-patient (OPD) treatment. They also do testing and management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs); voluntary and confidential HIV and AIDS counseling and testing and prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services. Other services it is involved in are cancer screening and circumcision.