Skip to main content
September 20, 2018

Abortion debate: Why men feel isolated

Termination of pregnancy is a difficult decision for a woman to make, especially when the man abandons her physically and emotionally.
Termination of pregnancy is a difficult decision for a woman to make, especially when the man abandons her physically and emotionally.

The 2012 guidelines on abortion, which were withdrawn by the ministry of health, provided for counselling of distressed women seeking abortion. 


Whereas many life decisions between couples are made via dialogue, the decision to terminate a pregnancy sometimes leaves men looking uncomfortably alone.

On one side it is men who prod women to seek the termination of a pregnancy.

But the dominant position is that how a woman deals with an unwanted pregnancy is a choice to be made by her alone.

How that decision affects men remains largely unexamined and untold.

For some young men who know of their fatherhood and its end, the feelings can burn intensely.

 

OTIENO’S STORY

Richard Otieno says everything happened faster that he could blink.

First was the news from his girlfriend, “I am pregnant and you’re the father” - the first real evidence of his virility.

And then probably because he failed to give her enough emotional support, yet she had another child, she quietly terminated the pregnancy.

He was hurt and confused, and developed tremendous resentment toward her.

They first met in 2015 in Nairobi’s Ngara Area, where the 28-year-old woman worked as a househelp. Otieno continues to work as a mechanic here.

The next day she visited him in his house and soon this became a routine. Two months later, a pregnancy test kit from a local pharmacy confirmed she was pregnant.

“What will my parents say at home? I already have a three-year-old child at home. This cannot happen,” she told him.

Otieno, 30, says he pleaded with her in vain.

She asked for advance salary from her bosses, claiming there was an emergency at her village home.

“She told me she knows of a doctor who could help her and she asked me for additional Sh2,000, but I refused,” says Otieno.

He claims he really wanted to keep the pregnancy and marry her. She disappeared for a week and only resurfaced after procuring the abortion at an unknown location.

It was most likely an unsafe abortion. Currently, although termination of pregnancy in Kenya is only allowed under certain situations, there are no guidelines to for medics.

The 2012 guidelines on abortion, which were withdrawn by the ministry of health, provided for counselling of distressed women seeking abortion. If a medic felt the health of the mother and the baby were not in danger, they could refer the woman for psychological attention. But without the guidelines, this hardly ever happens.

Otieno says he was heartbroken by her girlfriend’s decision. Their relationship limped on with a conspiracy of silence but eventually died off.

“I was very annoyed, but I could not do anything. She had already done the abortion,” he says.

She collected her belongings from the employer and left for her home village in Kitui.

Otieno strongly feels even if she had to eventually terminate the pregnancy, it should have been a mutual decision.

“I still talk to her and she says she got a new job in Mombasa town,” he says.

He now hopes to settle down with her new fiancee once he becomes financially stable.

 

HAPPY ENDING

For David, a 29-year-old accountant, the debate about his girlfriend’s pregnancy was healthy and they reached a decision they are both comfortable with.

He says termination of pregnancy is a difficult decision for a woman to make, especially when the man abandons her physically and emotionally.

“I got a call from my girlfriend at around 9am. ‘I want us to meet for a talk today in the afternoon,’ she said over the phone. I did not know what she wanted us to discuss, but the previous night we had an argument and maybe this was the opportune moment to iron out the differences,” David explains.

She was a fellow accounting student at a college in Mombasa. David now works for one of the insurance companies on Moi Avenue in Mombasa City.

On the morning Mary called David asking to meet him in the afternoon, she was unwell and had missed classes for three days.

Unknowingly, she was two months pregnant.

“I had missed my periods, but I thought it was normal since my menstrual cycle is very irregular. That morning I decided to go to a local clinic and they found no illness in me. They advised me to take a pregnancy test and it turned out positive,” she says.

“I cried.”

She took the papers in her handbag to meet David.

“We met in town and we went to Mama Nginga Drive Park. All this time, Davie was not aware of what was going through me. I hated myself and I hated him too,” says Mary.

He could not read the pregnancy test results, so she plainly told him she was pregnant.

“I was tongue tied and I kept quiet,” says David.

What do we do next? An abortion or we keep the baby? The questions started flowing.

“We will keep the baby,” he told his girlfriend after six hours at the park when it was getting late.

Mary stays with her father as her mother lives in upcountry with other siblings.

She came to Mombasa only for her college studies. While thought of terminating the pregnancy made her shiver, what freaked her the most was the reaction of her father if he discovered she was pregnant.

They decided to keep the pregnancy secret.

“My father came to know about my pregnancy after seven months after a woman, who is a neighbour, told her. I was scared, but I had to tell him everything,” says Mary.

David also informed his parents and they agreed to take care of the child after birth.

The kid is is now four years old. The couple plan to get married after Mary finishes her CPA course. She took a break during the pregnancy and after her son’s birth.

David says during Mary’s pregnancy, they quarreled a lot and sometimes wished he had denied responsibility as she was too nagging.

“I wished I had asked her to abort or even denied responsibility. She was very nagging, always complaining, always bitter, but thank God we are now living in peace,” he says.

Poll of the day