In a new report, The Intercept found deteriorating economic conditions were driving women to extreme birth control measures, including irreversible sterilization and risky illegal abortions. With birth control pills and prophylactics prohibitively expensive for most Venezuelans, women are left with little means to prepare for what comes next.
“We had to show what they were fighting against,” says Marillier. “[It] is a violent decision to get sterilized or get an abortion in a country where it's so valued to have a child. We had to show the risk as well.”
They also included a visceral 10-minute documentary that shows some of the women telling their stories firsthand.
The majority Catholic country outlaws abortions, often leaving women to seek clandestine abortions that could lead to further complications or death. It is uncommon for a man to consent to sterilization, even though it is a less dangerous and less invasive surgery.
“It’s totally left to them [women] to raise, carry or not carry children,” says Squires. “If your husband got a vasectomy, it was like, ‘Oh, no, what will he tell his friends?’”
The two reporters found subjects for the piece relatively easy, with many of the women forthcoming about their experiences.
The stories they shared were ones of desperation, survival and anger. A 21-year-old woman named Darling opted to be permanently sterilized to avoid bringing any more children into Venezuela’s harsh realities.
Her sister, Jennifer, found she could not feed her baby because her breast could not produce milk, and she could not afford formula.
Another woman, her face hidden from the reporters’ camera, completes an illegal abortion just offscreen.
One mother, Natalie, recalls losing her young son because she couldn’t afford his medicine. She cries during much of her interview.
“It was quite risky for them to speak to foreign reporters,” says Marillier. “I think they were very brave.”
“The women were so pragmatic about how they approached everything,” says Squires.
“It’s the resilience you build when you’ve got to survive and move on. I was amazed by Darling, the 21-year-old, whose family helped her to invest in taking out her Fallopian tubes. ... But that is a long-term investment, making sure there are no more mouths to feed.”
Venezuela’s collapsing economy extends to the teenage girls who are asking to be sterilized, the women risking their lives to terminate pregnancies and the parents who are watching their children die before they do.