Activists in Kenya will continue to fight for abortion rights after the end of Roe

know about Activists in Kenya will continue to fight for abortion rights after the end of Roe

in details

Placeholder while article actions load

NAIROBI — Fauziah was attending a dinner party in 2016 at her friend Aisha’s home in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Around 11 pm, Aisha started complaining of stomach pain and put on a sanitary pad. Within minutes, the blood had seeped through her clothing. At 2 am, writhing in pain, Aisha asked her friends to take her to the cheapest public hospital.

They took her quickly to the reception. Aisha, a single mother of a 1-year-old girl, had migrated alone from Uganda to Kenya. She had turned to sex work to care for her child and she had become pregnant.

“In Africa, when a woman wants an abortion, it’s not something that someone can tell anyone,” said Fauziah, who told this story on the condition that only her first name be used for privacy reasons. “She wanted to get pregnant, we would call her reckless and irresponsible. She never told any of us. So she was doing all of this on her own.”

They later found out that Aisha had visited one of the unlicensed pharmacists in the slums who are known to defraud poor women for fake abortion services. He sold Aisha a pack of pills and she took them that day. Fauziah doesn’t know what her friend took, but the women say they have been given quinine tablets, which are ineffective, or even large packs of birth control pills, which can result in vaginal bleeding. The practice is so common that the nurses realized what was going on, Fauziah said, and made no effort to hide their disdain.

She begged the nurses to admit Aisha, but it was too late: she died on the hospital floor, in a pool of her own blood.

See also  New Chilean Constitution Includes Reproductive Right to Abortion – The Organization for World Peace

“That thing has never [left] my mind,” Fauziah said.

This is what unsafe abortion can look like in Kenya, a traditionally conservative country that has long restricted access to reproductive care. Many women and girls resort to desperate measures—using knitting needles, drinking bleach, taking unidentified pills, or ingesting traditional herbs—to end their pregnancies.

Although Kenya has gradually liberalized its abortion laws in recent years, activists are concerned that the repeal of Roe vs. Wade by the United States Supreme Court could delay its progress. But they are determined to continue their fight, drawing inspiration from Latin America, where three countries have expanded abortion rights in the past year.

“I think the wave that started in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, is catching fire in Africa,” said Tabitha Griffith Saoyo, a Kenyan lawyer who works to expand reproductive rights. “[T]there is room for Africa to lead by showing that abortion is an African problem, not a Western concept, and that we are ready to protect our women.”

Access to abortion varies widely around the world. In most European countries, Australia and Canada, as well as in Russia and China, abortion is available on request with different gestation limits. Within sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya occupies a middle ground; Abortion is banned in places like Madagascar, the Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, while South Africa, Mozambique and Benin are among a handful of countries that allow abortion on demand.

Pregnancy is a deadly gamble in Sierra Leone

Kenya’s original abortion laws were outlined in its colonial-era penal code, which imposed severe penalties for any woman who terminates a pregnancy and any doctor who attends her, except in the rare cases where the woman’s life is in danger.

Unsafe abortion has become one of the leading causes of death and injury for Kenyan women and girls. 2013 to study conducted by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, in partnership with health and civil society organizations, found a rate of 30 induced abortions per 100 births. More than 157,000 women that year sought care for symptoms stemming from unsafe abortion attempts, and 37 percent of them experienced serious complications, including high fever, sepsis, shock or organ failure.

See also  Project Supports Black Women Leaders, Expects Business Pledges for 2020

“We’ve seen all kinds of grotesque cases,” said Anne Kihara, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist and president of the African Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “Women who have had to have their uterus removed, infections, the instruments that have been used, the crude things that have had to be removed from us.”

The Kenyan constitution, drafted in 2010, clearly says that life begins at conception. Abortion is not permitted unless a health professional deems it necessary to protect the “life or health” of the woman or “if permitted by any other written law”, a clause that left the door open for future legislation on abortion. reproductive rights. the Health Law 2017 expanded the definition of “health” from the absence of disease to include physical, mental, and social well-being.

in 2019, a landmark court ruling granted victims of sexual violence the right to abortion. In another decided case this yeara judge ruled that abortion care is a fundamental constitutional right — specifically referencing key points of Roe — but the decision is under appeal.

For now, abortion on demand remains illegal and unsafe abortions remain common. The most recent data from 2017 shows a maternal mortality rate of 342 deaths per 100,000 live births in Kenya. By comparison, the United States, which has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, recorded 17 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018.

Abortion rights advocates here tell the implications of overturning Roe vs. Wade extend far beyond the United States. “The fact that it’s happening in the United States, the distance doesn’t matter,” said Angela Akol, Kenya director of the Ipas Africa Alliance, a global reproductive rights organization. “What matters is the weight of the importance that the United States has in foreign policy, especially in health policy.”

See also  Opinion | Ahmaud Arbery's killers received extreme sentences

Many Kenyan reproductive health programs rely heavily on US government grants and took significant financial hits when the Trump administration reinstated and expanded the “global gag rule” in 2017. These organizations fear looming more anti-abortion policies and funding cuts.

Advocates also worry that the ruling will embolden international anti-abortion groups that have a long story meddling in African politics.

Among these groups is CitizenGO, an ultra-conservative petition mill based in Spain. has already released a successful campaign to temporarily stop the passage of Kenya 2019 Reproductive Health Billand its campaign manager in Africa is part of the group that appealed this year’s court decision that declared abortion a constitutional right.

“We will start to see opposition groups lobbying, poking into some of the progressive policies and laws that we have in the country,” said Nelly Munyasia, executive director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya, a coalition of health professionals. “And you definitely want to cite the Roe vs. Wade decision.”

Global United Nations data shows that restricting access to abortions does not make them less common, but it does make them more dangerous. Forty-five percent of abortions in the world are unsafe, the UN calculated.

“Women who are desperate to have an abortion will get it, by any means possible,” Ipas’s Akol said. “Because of the restrictive environment, people go underground and do all kinds of things to get an abortion. They die.”

Saoyo, the Kenyan lawyer, said she and other advocates will continue to fight for abortion rights. “There is still room to fight as a movement,” she said. “This is the time for Africa and Latin America to lead the way.”