MATERNAL MORBIDITY

Medics’ attitude and stigma still a barrier to safe abortion

Law permits abortion in cases where mother's health is at risk

In Summary

• Health workers have not undergone training on the provision of safe abortion. 

• There is also limited research that highlights cases of abortion among learners. 

The post abortion care pocket guide approved by the Ministry of Health
UNSAFE ABORTION: The post abortion care pocket guide approved by the Ministry of Health
Image: COURTESY

The Constitution of Kenya permits abortion if in the opinion of a trained health care provider, the life of the woman is in danger or if a written law permits it. A written law here being any legislation passed by Parliament that permits termination of a pregnancy.

However, despite the Constitution being in place, many women still undergo unsafe abortion including going for backstreet methods and untrained midwives. The attitudes of health workers that are backed by religious values, the stigma associated with an unintended pregnancy, limited conversations between parents and adolescents, a lack of life skills education in schools and limited allocations to improving maternal health contribute to cases of unsafe abortion.

Even though the Ministry of Health reinstated the national standard and guidelines for reducing maternal mortality and morbidity related to unsafe abortion, health workers have not undergone training on the provision of safe abortion.

Comprehensive sexuality education does not target life skills that may prevent unintended pregnancy and, therefore, learners are at risk of procuring an abortion.

There is also limited research that highlights cases of abortion among learners. Since data is not collected among providers in the backstreet clinics, the current figures on deaths related to unsafe abortion may be underestimated.

The government has not shown much commitment to this as seen in the small number of doctors who have been trained on post-abortion care.

There is also a need to come up with research on the prevalence of unsafe abortion in learning institutions, with the focus on primary and secondary schools. This data will help guide interventions to reduce maternal deaths.

 

Naya Kenya, Nairobi