A Marie Stopes clinic in Kenya
A Marie Stopes clinic in Kenya

Marie Stopes International, which operates in 37 countries including Kenya, has changed its name.

From Tuesday, November 17, the international reproductive health organization will be known as MSI Reproductive Choices.

Notably, the decision was informed by concerns over the association of Marie Stopes, whom the organization is named after, with the eugenics movement.

Marie Stopes, a women’s rights campaigner and the first female academic at the University of Manchester, opposed interracial marriage and called for the enactment of laws to permit sterilization of  the “hopelessly rotten and racially diseased”.

Pressure has been mounting on the organization to change its name for several years, a situation that was exacerbated by heightened racial tensions in the United States in 2020.

Marie Stopes, whom Marie Stopes International is named after. [Credit: Wellcome Library, London]

MSI Chief Executive Simon Cooke denied the assertion that the organization was erasing Stopes from the history books.

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“We’re absolutely not trying to erase her from history, or what she did.

“For me, she was an acknowledged family planning pioneer, an extraordinary women who broke down barriers … but we really need to look forward and not back. It’s the right moment for us,” he maintained

He further revealed that the board had been considering changing the name since November 2019. The prominence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, however, made it a greater imperative.

“The name of the organisation has been a topic of discussion for many years and the events of 2020 have reaffirmed that changing our name now is the right decision,” he stated.

Cooke spoke as the organization launched a 10 year strategy to reach 120 million girls and women around the world with reproductive health services.

He further observed that activity at their clinics, particularly in Africa, had picked up after an initial slump attributed to Covid-19.

“After the disruption in March and April, we’re now pretty much back to full capacity, particularly in Africa,” he revealed.

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Martin Siele is a senior reporter at Business Today.

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