On Sunday, November 11, officers from the Kilimani Police Station stormed the Marie Stopes clinic at Kenyatta Market and found 47 girls allegedly queuing to get contraceptive jabs.
The clinic had earlier conducted a campaign in Kibera, Ngumo and other nearby estates, to sensitise girls and women to unwanted pregnancies. They were also offering free family planning services.
Kilimani OCPD, Michael Muchiri told the Nation that a caller tipped the police off that there were underage girls seeking contraceptive jabs at the clinic.
“We sent officers there and, indeed, we asked those girls we suspected were underage to go back home and then summoned the workers we found at the facility,” he said, adding that no child was injected as the police arrived in time to stop any such plan.
As police continued investigating the matter, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) was putting together a report after investigating allegations that the Marie Stopes Kenya offers abortion services at some of their outlets in the country.
A preliminary KMPDB inquiry committee was instituted following a complaint filed on November 2, 2018, by Thomas Ireri and Ann Kioko, after the clinic began an online campaign allegedly advocating for abortion.
In a ruling seen by the media directing Marie Stopes Kenya to suspension abortion services, the preliminary inquiry committee, chaired by Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko, showed that the international non-governmental organisation had admitted to having conducted abortions on 1 per cent of the women who sought advice on the same.
Witnesses who appeared before the committee said the clinic offered charged Sh5,000 for an abortion at a woman’s request, and not according to the conditions stipulated by Article 26 of the Constitution, which says: “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”
The complainants raised the issue with the Ministry of Health after the clinic began an online and media campaigns purportedly promoting abortion, adding that the campaigns were still running, despite a ban by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).
They said that they had made several calls to the numbers provided, and that upon indicating that a pregnant person was seeking services, they had been referred to a clinic for an abortion, and asked to take Sh5,000 along.
“Previously, one would be referred to a clinic at Afya Centre in Nairobi, but currently, one is referred to the nearest Marie Stopes clinic,” noted the board, which is mandated under Chapter 253 of the Kenyan Constitution and Rule 4 of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Disciplinary Proceedings to conduct inquiries into complaints.
However, Marie Stopes Kenya Chairman Hezron McObewa told the committee that the organisation, which has 22 clinics in the country — all registered by the board — started a campaign on reproductive health and safe abortion in August this year in consultation with the Reproductive Health Consortium.
DEBATE ON ABORTION
“The intention of the said campaign was to provide a space for discussing abortion, which is an emotive issue. Mr McObewa further stated that 99 per cent of callers attended to by the respondent through their toll-free numbers are counselled and advised against abortion, hence they end up carrying the pregnancy to term. However, he stated that only 1 per cent go ahead to abort,” the board noted.
Meanwhile, Marie Stopes Marketing Director Christopher Wainaina told the committee that the purpose of the online campaign was to highlight and avert the high mortality rates in Kenya resulting from unsafe abortions.
The ban is likely to revive debate on abortion, more so, because lately, the media has highlighted the existence of quacks conducting backstreet abortions, putting women’s lives in danger.
The Ministry of Health estimates that close to 2,700 women die from unsafe abortions annually.
The African Population and Health Research Centre, APHRC, estimates that more than 464,690 abortions are conducted in Kenya annually.