•The Ministry of Health withdrew abortion guidelines in Kenya in 2010 and lobbies have, without avail, been clamouring for their reinstatement.
•The guideline includes recommendations on many simple primary care level interventions that improve the quality of abortion care provided to women and girls.
Kenya has been asked to adopt the new abortion guidelines released by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
Abortion advocates say the guidelines are most progressive, as they even allow medics to direct women, via phone, on how to take abortion pills and what to do after that.
Martin Onyango, head of legal strategies for Africa at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, a Nairobi-based abortion lobby, said Kenya is bound by the guidelines as it is a party to the WHO.
“The Government of Kenya should adopt the WHO guidelines on abortion in line with the 2010 Constitution and the Health Act,” Onyango told the Star.
“This will enable women and girls of reproductive health to access the much-needed safe and legal abortion care and end the preventable maternal and deaths (seven deaths daily) and injuries caused by unsafe abortion."
The Ministry of Health withdrew abortion guidelines in Kenya in 2010 and lobbies have, without avail, been clamouring for their reinstatement.
The Kenya guidelines explained who can perform abortions and allowed health workers to undergo training on abortion.
“The WHO guidelines on abortion will largely shape how countries approach provision of such essential services. As signatory to WHO statute, Kenya is bound by the very guidelines,” Onyango said, noting that acting Director General for Health Patrick Amoth is the chairman of WHO board.
Abortion in Kenya is illegal but is permitted in certain circumstances, including danger to the life and health of the expectant mother, and rape.
The WHO, while releasing the new guidelines, said more than 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year globally.
“Being able to obtain safe abortion is a crucial part of healthcare,” said Craig Lissner, acting director for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.
“Nearly every death and injury that results from unsafe abortion is entirely preventable. That’s why we recommend women and girls can access abortion and family planning services when they need them.”
When abortion is carried out using a method recommended by WHO, appropriate to the duration of the pregnancy and assisted by someone with the necessary information or skills, it is a simple and extremely safe procedure, the organisation said.
The guidelines include recommendations on many simple primary care level interventions that improve the quality of abortion care provided to women and girls.
These include task sharing by a wider range of health workers, ensuring access to medical abortion pills, which means more women can obtain safe abortion services, and making sure that accurate information on care is available to all those who need it.
For the first time, the guidelines also include recommendations for use where appropriate of telemedicine, which helped support access to abortion and family planning services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The guidelines recommend removing medically unnecessary policy barriers to safe abortion, such as criminalisation, mandatory waiting times, the requirement that approval must be given by other people (e.g., partners or family members) or institutions, and limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can take place.