VICTORY FOR WOMEN

Lobbies want abortion in all health facilities

Call for training of nurses, clinical officers, midwives and doctors on safe abortion

In Summary

•Groups say abortion should be provided if the life, physical or psychological well being of woman or girl is affected by pregnancy 

•Training of medical professionals on provision of abortion should begin immediately 

Christine Alai a Consultant, Legal Expert on Sexual Violence in Conflict during the press conference on the abortion ruling at Sarova Panafric hotel on 13 June 2019
ABORTION: Christine Alai a Consultant, Legal Expert on Sexual Violence in Conflict during the press conference on the abortion ruling at Sarova Panafric hotel on 13 June 2019
Image: Wilfred Nyangaresi

Civil society organisations want legal abortion services to immediately available in all hospitals in accordance with the Constitution. 

The call comes after the High Court on Wednesday ruled that the Director of Medical Services and the Ministry of Health had violated the law by withdrawing the 2012 Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya and banning the training of health professionals on abortion.

They have called for the immediate reinstatement of training for all nurses, clinical officers, midwives and doctors on the provision of safe and legal abortion services. 

 

Further, the organisations want all facilities to have trained health professionals, essential medicines and equipment and the dissemination of information on safe and legal abortion.

Speaking during a joint press conference in Nairobi on Thursday, the lobby groups said the ruling is a victory to women and girls especially from the lower socioeconomic status that are disproportionately affected by unsafe abortions.

"... women and girls will be able to access safe and legal abortion services and information, and health providers will be able to offer abortion and post-abortion care services without the fear of being prosecuted," their statement read. 

Christine Alai, a legal expert on sexual violence in conflict, said the court ruling affirmed women and girl's right to seek an abortion and care services at health facilities.

 The legal expert said that any woman who feels her mental or physical health is affected by their pregnancy has the right to walk into a health facility and request an abortion.

"It will be the obligation of that health professional to determine whether the life or physical or psychological health of the girl or women is affected by that pregnancy in order to procure an abortion," she said. 

Alai said the ruling is a landmark decision because most people believe abortion cannot be permitted under any circumstance.

Abortion in Kenya is allowed if in the opinion of a trained health professional there is a need for emergency treatment or if the life or health of the mother is in danger or if permitted by any other written law. 

Martin Onyango, a lawyer at the Centre for Reproductive Health, said the absence of abortion services in clinics forces a lot of women and girls to seek help from quacks because trained providers fear arrest. 

"Women and girls seek unsafe clandestine abortions due to lack of access to reproductive health information and quality services, lack of clarity on the legal status of abortion and pervasive cultural stigma," he said.

According to the lobby groups, unsafe abortion is one of the main causes of maternal deaths in Kenya.

They argue that though these deaths are preventable. Seven women and girls die from unsafe abortions every day. They termed the ruling a step in the right direction toward improving maternal health and gender equality in the country.