KENYA – Marie Stopes Kenya post-abortion care services banned, then permitted again

On 14 November 2018, Marie Stopes Kenya was ordered to suspend post-abortion care services by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, who said they acted after complaints from members of the public that the law was being violated. In a statement in response, Marie Stopes Kenya said they remained open and would continue offering essential family planning, maternal health and general medical services.

In the following weeks, Kenyans online began pleading with Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki to save girls and women from deaths that occur when obtaining unsafe abortions. Using the hashtag #DearCSSicilyKariuki on Twitter, people urged her to give a chance to safe abortions and prevent deaths that may occur during backstreet abortions. Examples of some of the tweets:

“Women can make their own choices, the curtailing of these rights doesn’t help, you would think that women are not capable of rational, ethical decision-making and have to be protected from making the ‘wrong’ decision. It never works that way.”

“The cost of treating abortion related complications is approximately half a billion each year. We have in the recent past watched an expose of a thriving underworld of quack doctors treating women in dehumanizing manner.”

“Many hard battles have been fought to win political and economic equality for women. These gains will not be worth much if reproductive choice is “denied.”

“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.”

The Health Cabinet Secretary lifted the ban just hours later. In a press release, she directed that “the

ban on post-abortion care services at Marie Stopes be lifted and the facility ensure that all procedures are carried out within the law.”

SOURCES: Citizen Digital, 25 November 2018 ; The Star, by Lillian Mutavi, 1 December 2018 ; The Nation, by Evelyne Musambi, 20 December 2018 ; The Star, by Gordon Ouko, 24 December 2018