Missionary Doctor: Abstinence Isn’t Always an Option

When sex is forced on women, contraception becomes a form of compassion.
Missionary Doctor: Abstinence Isn’t Always an Option
Image: FMSC

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, David Vanderpool, a Christian doctor who lives and works in Haiti, told NPR’s All Things Considered he believes birth control and vaccines—not abortion—will be the best responses to the spread of Zika. The mosquito-borne virus appears linked to birth defects, so some countries have recommended women delay pregnancy for up to two years. The Zika outbreak has drawn attention to efforts to improve birth control access—especially in areas where vulnerable women are forced into sex. – Kate Shellnutt, CT associate editor

Our hospital, located along a rough dusty street on the outskirts of Thomazeau, Haiti, serves as the only source of medical care for the 150,000 impoverished residents of this area. The combination of chronic malnutrition fostered by a three-year-old draught, endemic malaria, and the new threat of the Zika virus, drives thousands of the starving sick to our doorstep each week. One such frequent visitor, though, comes for a different reason.

Magdalene lives in a 20-year-old woman’s body with a 4-year-old’s mind. Emotionally and mentally challenged, she drifts along the fringes of Haitian culture sleeping on porches and eating what she can find. Without family or emotional boundaries to protect her, she is constantly harassed and raped by the men of the village.

Having lost count of the forced births she has endured, Magdalene comes to our door knowing she is welcome to sleep in the quiet refuge of our hospital, enjoy a nutritious meal, and get a warm bath. Recently, as our nurses helped bathe her and get her new clothes, they noticed the telltale swelling of a pregnant belly.

Magdalene, like many women in the developing world, has little ...

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