Every woman on this planet must have the education, autonomy, and healthcare access to decide whether and when she has children. This belief guides my advocacy on the web and IRL: I specialize in reporting on family planning topics from Plan B to Planned Parenthood and in leading conversations on "taboo" issues across social platforms (highlights include hosting the 2015 #ThxBirthControl Twitter chat and live-tweeting my IUD insertion). I was also thrilled to travel to Indonesia this year to cover the International Conference on Family Planning on behalf of the UN Foundation. As a Global Health Corps fellow in Burundi, I taught sex ed classes for teens and organized community events that tackled HIV/AIDS stigma and promoted safe sex, because effective FP begins with open conversation.
By luck of the draw, I've always had access to family planning education and care, and I've always been conscious that my story diverges drastically from the stories of so many women around the world. My time in Burundi threw this into stark relief when a friend of mine, a single Burundian woman two days younger than me, had an unintended pregnancy and then a child due to poor access to BC. It derailed her plans for her future. This shouldn't be any woman's fate, and it doesn't have to be.
Family planning is hard to talk about because sex is hard to talk about. The biggest roadblock to my work to normalize contraception is the stigma that still surrounds its use. Not everyone who uses FP is actively “planning a family,” and that’s okay. In my weekly column "The Bed Post," I discuss the steps I take to lead a healthy, pleasurable sex life. I'm gratified that it has inspired others to share their own stories and demonstrated that having safe sex should make us proud, not ashamed.
In the U.S., women with financial means get to use the best FP methods for their bodies, but the contraceptive playing field is uneven. The ACA mandates that women can access any FDA-approved method at no out-of-pocket cost, but many employers are exempt; what's more, before covering methods such as the IUD or implant, some insurers require that women "fail" cheaper methods. We have to make every FDA-approved method available to every woman, at no out-of-pocket cost and with no questions asked.
With challenges to women's reproductive rights intensifying in courtrooms and legislative chambers across the U.S., I plan to ramp up my coverage of their effects on family planning access through deeper investigative reporting. I also aim to take my reporting international through multimedia journalism projects, focusing especially on East Africa. And as a Global Health Corps alumnus and Amref Health Africa board member, I intend to champion both organizations' fights for women's health equity.