Concern over rising unsafe abortions

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Protesters hold anti-abortion placards. Photo/PD/FILE

Cases of women and girls seeking unsafe abortion services from quacks are still on the rise, a new study has shown.

Report released by Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR) further indicates that a majority of persons seeking unsafe abortions are from poor and marginalised communities. 

CRR revealed that since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010, at least seven deaths out of unsafe abortions are reported daily, translating to over 20,000 in the last 10 years.

The report indicated that the current legal mechanisms  disregard and suppress opinion of a trained health professional, when it comes to accessing safe abortion.

CRR Senior Regional Director for Africa, Evelyne Opondo,  said reproductive health rights are ignored or sidelined when courts do not explicitly apply Article 26(4) to its full extent during proceedings or determinations of abortion cases.

“Rights have been ignored when abortion cases are concluded without full investigation, and when accused women and girls are ‘publicly lynched’ and branded criminals without investigations into the circumstances surrounding terminations of their pregnancies,” said Opondo.

She made the remarks yesterday while releasing a report titled ‘A Decade of Existence: Tracking Implementation of Article 26(4) of the Constitution’.

False narrative

“Persisting stigma and false narratives about abortion in the public domain and criminal justice system has put the lives of more Kenyan women and girls on the line,” she said.

Adding: “They are afraid to seek safe and legal abortion for fear of prosecution even in situations where terminated pregnancy is the result of rape.

Abortion stigma violates the rights of women and girls to access health, psychosocial support, and freedom from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. “

She insisted that Article 26(4) provides for right to abortion where, in opinion of a trained health professional there is need for emergency treatment, or life or health of pregnant woman or girl is in danger.

“Nurses, clinical officers, midwives, doctors and obstetrician gynecologists are trained health professionals permitted by the Constitution. Unsafe abortion is responsible for the deaths of nearly 2,600 women and girls in Kenya every year,” she explained.

The report comes against the backdrop of the country marking  10th anniversary since promulgation of the Constitution.

She said the report has also been launched amid sustained calls by civil society to banish attempts at watering down constitutional provisions for safeguarding lives and health of women and girls.

CRR said women and girls in the country expect more from Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Justice, Inspector General of Police, Members of Parliament and the Ministry of Health.

risky pregnancies

Towards ending violations in prosecution of abortion-related offences and enhanced legal protection for access to safe abortion, the report called for the need to train police and prosecutors on interpretation and application of the constitutional provisions on abortion to guide their investigations and prosecution of such cases.

The report has recommended initiation of a process to repeal sections 158 – 160 of the Penal Code to ensure legal clarity and seal the legal loopholes that fuel intimidation, harassment and extortion of women, girls and reproductive health providers.

CRR also called for reinstatement of standards and guidelines on reducing maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion and National Training Curriculum for management of unintended, risky and unplanned pregnancies.

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