There is a raging debate regarding abortion after statistics from a study by the Ministry of Health and African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) revealed that over 465,000 abortions were procured in Kenya in 2012 through clandestine and unsafe medical procedures. Why is this so?
The law that prohibits abortion in Kenya is one of the oldest and archaic pieces of legislation in our statute books. The Penal Code, Chapter 63 Laws of Kenya is in serious need of reform in several aspects in order to put all Kenyans in the same pedestal with the rest of the world in the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights. Article 27 of the Constitution provides that every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law. It provides further that women and men have the right to equal treatment before that law and obligates the State to take legislative and other steps including affirmative action to ensure that all citizens including disadvantaged groups have equal enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.
The National Assembly should speedily repeal sections 158,159 and 160 of the Penal Code and allow abortion in Kenya. The government should even go further and provide the appropriate equipment for carrying out this medical procedure in all major public hospitals. This is for a number of reasons. To begin with the study by the APHRC has not indicated whether all conceptions that were terminated through abortion resulted from consensual sexual relations. The high rate of reported violent crime and sexual offences such as rape, domestic violence, incest and defilement means that a very big number of girls and women in this country stand a very high risk of being put in the family way against their will. The socio-psycho trauma of bringing up a child conceived as a result of rape, incest and defilement is unbearable for most victims and survivors of sexual abuse. Any society worth its status ought to enact laws and social norms that protect rather than denigrate the weak and the marginalized.
Secondly, the rapid rate of urbanization and the attendant erosion of the moral fabric of our traditional values have resulted in numerous social problems. The aping of foreign ideologies and the adoption of an economically superior but morally inferior western culture by our youth has resulted in many cases of teenage pregnancies. The inevitable consequence has been the birth of many unwanted children all over the country. Research has linked the presence of many neglected and homeless children in our urban centers to these problems. Moralists who are opposed to the legalization of abortion should demonstrate responsibility by establishing institutions to cater for these neglected and homeless children. There is no morality in living affluence and privilege while innocent souls who had had no control over their procreation wallow in abject poverty. It is even worse when the privileged class seeks to impose its “morality” regarding the right to procreate on the victims.
Finally, outlawing abortion denies women the right to take control of their productive powers more so in a male dominated society such as ours. Allowing it on the other hand will give qualified medical personnel the ability to set up institutions where the procedure can be carried out safely using the right equipment. This will give our women and girls the ability to exercise their right to determine if, when and with who to bear children. This study has revealed that abortion is carried out in secret in unsafe underground facilities often by unqualified people who do not have the right equipment. Numerous media reports also indicate that Kenyatta National Hospital, the regional referral medical centre has a specialized unit that deals with complications arising out of botched abortions.
We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand, abortion is happening all over the country. Pretending otherwise is to live in a fool’s paradise.
By Capt. (Rtd) Collins Wanderi,
Commissioner for Oaths, Notary Public and Chair, Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors