Debate on achieving reproductive health in relation to abortion at TICAH, Kenya

Kenya’s Health Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri argued that the debate on legalising abortion should instead be turned into a campaign to prevent teenage pregnancies, at a discussion on reproductive health in Africa during a side meeting organised by the African Union Commission’s Department of Social Affairs at the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi.“We remain committed as a country to ensure that people are able to access all the services they need and the debate about abortion can continue. But more important, we know that abortion is a reflection of unwanted pregnancies. We need to step back and ask ourselves, ‘Why are we making them pregnant when they don’t want to get pregnant?’ That is where the debate should start. We don’t ask ourselves those questions,” he said.In response, Tewodros Melesse, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, responded that “This thing of moralising when the women are dying… I think this issue of morality has to come to a professional discussion. There are so many things about morality. We can talk about food, we can talk about so many things but I think abortion has to be taken not as an issue of morality but an issue of health.”It was Dr Muraguri, then Director of Medical Services, who in 2014 withdrew the “Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya”, which were intended to give guidance to health professionals on safe and legal abortion provision, as a first step towards reducing deaths and morbidity from unsafe abortion.The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, two community human rights mobilisers and an adolescent girl who developed complications after an unsafe abortion — said the move would make more girls choose dangerous abortions and in March 2016 they sued the Ministry of Health for withdrawing the guidelines. The case will be heard after the new Chief Justice appoints a three-judge bench to hear it.In Kenya, abortion is illegal unless it is authorised by a qualified health official when the health or life of the woman is at risk. In 2012, about 120,000 women were admitted to public hospitals and health centres for abortion-related complications, according to the Health Ministry, and an estimated 266 Kenyan women die per 100,000 unsafe abortions annually.SOURCE + PHOTO: Daily Nation, by Aggrey Mutambo, Nation Media Group, 26 August 2016