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SEEING THE UNSEEN

Half of pregnancies in Kenya are unintended, UN report shows

UNFPA says many of the abortions in Kenya are unsafe resulting in about 2,600 deaths of women and girls annually

In Summary

•In response, Kenya pledged to increase the modern contraceptive prevalence rate for married women from 58 per cent to 64 per cent by 2030, according to the Ministry of Health.

•In Kenya, abortion is only allowed if the health or life of a mother is in danger.

Unsafe backstreet abortions are common in Kenya
Unsafe backstreet abortions are common in Kenya
Image: FILE

Nearly half of all pregnancies in Kenya are unintended and 60 per cent of them end up in unsafe abortion, according to the State of World Population 2022 report.

Unintended pregnancy refers to conception by a woman who was not planning to have a child at that time.

The report, released by United Nation Population Fund,  shows many of the abortions in Kenya are unsafe resulting in about 2,600 deaths of women and girls annually.

“Not all unintended pregnancies are unwanted. But the majority of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, making the human rights perspective on abortion highly relevant to states and policymakers,” the report says.

In response, Kenya pledged to increase the modern contraceptive prevalence rate for married women from 58 per cent to 64 per cent by 2030, according to the Ministry of Health.

Kenya also plans to reduce unmet need for family planning for all women from 14 per cent to 10 per cent by 2030.

The report makes a strong case for abortion.

“Rates of unintended pregnancy tend to be lower in countries with more liberal abortion laws (that is, countries in which abortion is allowed on socioeconomic grounds or on request) than in those with more restrictive laws.”

The report is titled: “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy.”

“This report is a wake-up call. The staggering number of unintended pregnancies represents a global failure to uphold women and girls’ basic human rights,” UNFPA Executive director Natalia Kanem said.

In Kenya, abortion is only allowed if the health or life of a mother is in danger.

Last week,  the high court in Malindi affirmed that abortion care is a fundamental right under the constitution and that arbitrary arrests and prosecution of patients and healthcare providers for seeking or offering such services is illegal. 

The court case in question,  which was filed in November 2020, involved PAK, a minor aged 16 from Kilifi county.

While still receiving post-abortion services at a facility, police officers stormed the clinic, confiscated PAK’s treatment records and arrested her, along with a clinical officer.

Evelyne Opondo, Senior regional irector for Africa at Centre for Reproductive Rights said, “The court has vindicated our position by affirming that forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or to seek out an unsafe abortion is a gross violation of her rights to privacy and bodily autonomy."

"Further, the continued restrictive abortion laws inhibit quality improvement possible to protect women with unintended pregnancies.”

Nelly Munyasia, Executive director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya , a network of reproductive health providers whose member was the second petitioner in this case, welcomed the court’s decision.

“Many qualified reproductive healthcare practitioners continue to be arrested, detained, and prosecuted for providing legal medical care,” Munyasia said.

(Edited by Tabnacha O)

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