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Civil society groups defend Kihika, urge church to support safe abortions

Civil society organisations supporting legalization of abortion have defended Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika from attacks by some religious leaders and other ant-abortion proponents who have criticised her after she tabled the Reproductive Health Bill.

Several religious organisations held protests in Nairobi streets last week to oppose the Bill.

HEALTH BILL

The Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops has been on the forefront in opposing the Bill.

The church believes the Bill intends to sneak sections allowing abortions under the guise of reproductive health rights.

Although the Bill has numerous provisions for reproductive health, including family planning, assisted reproduction and safe motherhood, it also has proposals on the termination of pregnancy which has invited heavy criticism from religious leaders.

But in a joint press statement, the civil organisations supporting legalization of abortion criticized those attacking Kihika and others supporting the Bill.

“We are also concerned and condemn the threats being issued to Kenyans who are standing up in support of women and girls’ sexual reproductive health rights, including the right to access safe abortion as stipulated by the law,” they said in the statement.

PREGNANT WOMEN

The organisations include Amnesty International, The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Federation of Women Lawyers and Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICH) among others.

TICH Executive Director Jedida Maina said the constitution provides for safe abortions services where the life or health of the pregnant woman is in danger or in the event of an emergency.

“Statistics by the Ministry of Health show about 460, 000 abortions are undertaken every year. About 20, 000 end up in severe complications and 7000 die in such abortions every year,” Maina said.

“These provisions extend to adolescents whose needs and rights are further elaborated in the Adolescents and Reproductive Health Policy that was enacted by the Ministry of Health in 2016,” Maina said.

SAFE ABORTION

They said the threats to Kihika and pro-abortion groups are also designed to stop implementation of legal frameworks that grant women girls sexual and reproductive health rights and access to information and services on the same – including safe abortion services.

The rights groups also want the Ministry of Health to finalise, launch and implement a comprehensive curriculum on sexual and reproductive health rights in and out of school adolescents.

Maina said that the narrative being peddled by the church and religious organisations is not correct regarding abortion as outlined by the constitution.

“These (religious) groups are also against comprehensive education and information on sexual and reproductive health to adolescents, despite the evidence that shows an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies that has been made worse during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

The High Court in 2015 ruled that women and girls who suffer sexual violence can also access safe abortion services if in the opinion of a trained health provider is that their life or health is in danger.