KENYA – Medical Association raises alarm over fatalities linked to unsafe abortions

The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) has sounded a warning over rising fatalities linked to unsafe abortions in Kenya. Speaking during their 48th annual conference in Kisii, the Association’s President Dr Andrew Were said 5,000 maternal deaths related to unsafe abortions were recorded in the country in a year.

He cited unsafe abortions as a threat to the country’s efforts to attain universal health coverage and called upon all relevant stakeholders to team up in provision of quality health care services: “Through quality universal health care services, we are assured of safe abortion services for our women and girls.”

He said the Association had partnered with relevant stakeholders in championing the agenda of universal health coverage. He also called for the amendment of legal provisions on sexual and reproductive health to protect health care workers.

The rate of early unintended pregnancy in Kenya continues to be high. According to the 2014 Demographic & Health Survey, about one in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had begun having children, and it’s as high as two in five in Narok and Homa Bay counties. Most of these pregnancies were unplanned and unintended.

Although Kenya’s 2010 constitution broadened access to abortion, permitting it when a woman’s life is at risk or in case of an emergency, and guaranteeing the right to life and reproductive health services, a report by the Centre for Reproductive Rights released ahead of the ten-year anniversary last year said a disregard for the provisions was fuelling stigma, resulting in the deaths of thousands of women annually. Evelyne Opondo, CRR’s senior regional director for Africa, said widespread conservative attitudes stigmatising abortion had driven women and girls to unregulated clinics run by untrained medical practitioners: “The persisting stigma and false narratives about abortion in the public domain and criminal justice system have put the lives of more Kenyan women and girls on the line. They are afraid of seeking safe and legal abortion for fear of prosecution even in situations where terminated pregnancy is the result of rape.”

SOURCES: Capital FM Kenya, by Rosemary Onchari, 17 June 2021 ; Reuters, by Nita Bhalla, 20 August 2020 ; PHOTO by Getty Images in Chatham, 1 July 2020. Activists march in January 2018 to protest that women should hold at least one third of government seats in Kenya by law.