During the opening sequence of her documentary No Woman No Cry, Christy Turlington admits that she led a pretty charmed life, but something happened the day that she gave birth to her daughter and there were complications: “I went from invincible to powerless.” Though Turlington got medical care and both she and her daughter were fine, she realized how fortunate she was to have access to quality maternity care. The experience sent her on a new kind of journey, not only of motherhood but of a mission to learn about maternal health around the world and try to raise awareness about women’s health issues. Her travels took her from Bangladesh to Guatemala to Tanzania to Washington, DC, where she spent last week screening her film for lawmakers.
The documentary is mostly divided into three neat sections, each focusing on a woman in each of the countries Turlington visited. In Tanzania, we meet a young woman who is pregnant with her third child and has gone to the nearest local clinic trying to get help. However, her needs exceed the capability of the clinic, and the nurses advise her to go to the hospital. She refuses, unable to afford transportation. Turlington and her crew step in, donating the $30 required to hire a van, and the woman delivers the baby at a hospital (where she is also treated for exhaustion and dehydration). In the slums of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, a woman knows that she is able to go to the nearby hospital for care but is afraid to go there because of urban legends that poor women have their babies stolen from them. When she consents to an ultrasound, the doctor snaps at her for not knowing her basic medical information, and that bad experience makes the woman not want to return. (She does, but only because she begins to bleed during labor.) In Guatemala, a trained physician gives up her cushy position to do public health work. In particular, she calls attention to the fact that, because of Guatemala’s strict anti-abortion laws, many women die from unsafe abortions. A woman in the Guatemala City hospital is being treated for complications from a “miscarriage” of a baby conceived by rape. During the six weeks she spends in the hospital, no one from her family visits her.