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Our history

In 1976, our founders set out on a mission to bring choice to women around the world.

We are MSI Reproductive Choices. As our name suggests, we are unapologetically pro-choice— we believe every woman and every girl should have the power to decide the path their life takes.  

From contraception to safe abortions, and life-saving services following unsafe procedures, we are committed to delivering compassionate, high-quality services for all.  

MSI Reproductive Choices is built on the views of our founders, who believed that by providing high-quality, client-centred care they could support women to pursue the future of their choice—on their terms.  

Our story

Our story starts with three reproductive health pioneers, Tim Black CBE, Jean Black and Phil Harvey. In 1976, they set out on a mission to bring choice to women around the world. Today, MSI Reproductive Choices works across 37 countries serving thousands of women with contraception, safe abortion, post-abortion care and maternal health services every day

Tim Black CBE was a medical doctor who, in the late 1960s, was working as a district health officer in the Sepik district of New Guinea. There, after saving the life of a three-month-old girl, he was shocked that her widowed mother – who already had five children and no steady income – had not expected her to survive.

“My shock was absolute,” he recalls. “By saving the life of that child, I had actually compounded her problems, not solved her problems.”

In realising, in his own words, that “preventing a birth could be as important as saving a life,” Tim decided to switch his career to reproductive choice. In 1969, he was awarded a fellowship to study for a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina. While in the States, he met Phil Harvey, and in 1970 they co-founded Population Services International (PSI).

After implementing PSI’s first USAID-funded condom social marketing programme in Kenya, Tim returned to London. There, in November 1975, he learnt that a historic building in central London was closing due to financial difficulties. The building was the Marie Stopes Mothers’ Clinic in Whitfield Street, central London, which in 1925, Marie Stopes, a non-medical doctor, had opened despite opposition from a male-dominated medical establishment and the Catholic church. Here, women could access nurse-led advice and contraception without visiting a hospital or doctor’s office for the first time.

Marie Stopes House London

The founding of MSI

Together with Jean Black and Phil Harvey, Tim purchased the lease to the building and began to build the organisation we are today. In the naming of the organisation, our founders chose to recognise the origins of the building from which they started, and from 1976 to 2020, we were known as Marie Stopes International. Today, the legacy of Marie Stopes, the woman, is deeply entangled with her views on eugenics: opinions which are in stark contrast to our values and principles. Although our organisation was not founded by Marie Stopes, there were understandable misapprehensions that MSI had a meaningful connection to her and her views. So, on 17th November 2020, we changed our name to MSI Reproductive Choices to reflect our fundamental focus on choice.

MSI was built on the views of our founders, who believed that by treating women as individuals—and providing client-centred, high quality, compassionate care—they could empower women to take control of their lives and pursue the future of their choice, on their terms.

Their vision was to build a global organisation with women at its centre, and in the 45 years since we were founded, MSI has enabled millions of women to determine their own futures. Around the world today, 35 million women are using a method of contraception provided by us. That’s 35 million women who can finish their education, learn a new trade, start their own business or take care of their family without fear of unintended pregnancy.

Who we are today

Today, our organisation has over 9,000 team members working in 37 countries across the world, and our teams are rooted in the communities they serve, from major cities to rural villages. By taking services into areas others cannot or will not go, we enable more women and girls to make choices that were previously unavailable to them, in turn, improving the lives of individuals, families and communities.    

But there’s still work to do. More than 35 million unsafe abortions take place every year, translating to around 22,000 women’s lives needlessly lost, and serious illness and long-term disability for millions more. And there are over 230 million women and girls who want contraception, but are unable to access it—a figure set to rise to 300 million by the end of the decade, if no action is taken.  

Our founders believed until all women and girls have access to contraception and safe abortion services, we cannot achieve gender equality. As an organisation we are committed to our bold vision, that by 2030, no abortion will be unsafe and everyone who wants contraception will be able to access it. Our role today is to lead the way in expanding access to these services so that everyone is free to make decisions about their body, health and future. 

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MSI group education session in DRC

Our vision for the future is bold.

By 2030, no abortion will be unsafe and everyone who wants access to contraception will have it.