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February 24, 2019

Doctor tells court when law allows abortion

Judges Lydia Achode and Mumbi Ngugi at the Milimani court yesterday /COLLINS KWEYU
Judges Lydia Achode and Mumbi Ngugi at the Milimani court yesterday /COLLINS KWEYU

The few instances where a doctor is forced to terminate a pregnancy include ectopic pregnancy or eclampsia, where a mother experiences high blood pressure, threatening her life and that of the unborn child. A gynaecologist yesterday explained to a bench of five judges situations where doctors are permitted to terminate pregnancies.

Dr Wahome Ngari of the Kenya Cristian Professional Forum supports the move by the ministry of Health to withdraw guidelines on safe abortion.

He said the cases are rare and doctors have not been trained to kill the unborn child.

The intention is to save the life of the mother, the child or both.

The gynaecologist appeared before Justices Aggrey Muchelule, Mumbi Ngugi, George Odunga, Lydia Achode and John Mativo. The medic explained to the judges the use of the word “safe or unsafe” abortion has caused confusion and created disharmony even among medical practitioners.

He said some health practitioners misinterpreted the purpose of the standard and guidelines which were withdrawn by the ministry in 2013, leading to wrongful termination of pregnancies. “The guidelines were purporting to give a new meaning to the reading of Article 26 of the Constitution. In that they were giving an erroneous interpretation and teaching people how to terminate pregnancies in the belief that the Constitution allowed it,” he said.

The doctor further supported the ban of Medabon - a combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol which is used to induce abortions, saying it was prone to abuse. “It is only a doctor who is trained and allowed to determine whether abortion should be carried out or not. Nurses are not allowed to induce labour,” Ngari said. The Ministry of Health earlier defended its decision to withdraw the guidelines, saying it was intended to deter unscrupulous health practitioners procuring abortions that are not allowed by law.

Dr Joel Gondi, the Head of the Reproductive and Maternal Health Service Unit, confirmed the guidelines were recalled in 2013 after it emerged they were being used for unintended purposes. He admitted that faith based organisations took part in deliberations leading the guidelines although they expressed reservation during validation workshops.

In the case, Fida Kenya and the Centre for Reproductive Rights are challenging the decision taken by the ministry saying it’s a violation of women right.

Other parties are Article 19, National Gender and Equality Commission, Physicians for human Rights. Kenya Christian professional Forum, Catholic Doctors Association and the Attorney General are opposed to the suit.

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