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Abortion Debate Rekindled in Kenya

Photo: umuziphotoclub.blogspot.com

By Abiud Ochieng

Originally posted on allafrica

Controversy surrounding the abortion debate has returned to haunt the government five years later, as vested interests contest existing guidelines.

The Constitution promulgated on August 27, 2010 allows abortion when the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk.

"Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law," the Constitution says on the right to life.

However, the government, through the ministry of Health, has been put on the spot after it withdrew its "Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya".

The controversy has also been stirred by a memo from the then Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri to public and private health workers, which said the Constitution was clear that abortion on demand was illegal.

According to the petitioners, the ministry's memo did not say that abortion was legal under certain circumstances.

The petitioners include the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida), two community human rights mobilisers and an adolescent girl who developed complications after an unsafe abortion.

They also said that the ministry's action prohibited health workers from participating in training that bordered on anything to do with safe abortion, or the use of the drug Medabon for medical abortion.

The petitioners added that the memo was issued after the health ministry withdrew its standards and guidelines for reducing illnesses and deaths related to unsafe abortions.