A Marie Stopes International clinic. On Nov 19, 2018 Kenya banned the international charity from offering abortion services to women and girls after complaints it was promoting the termination of unwanted pregnancies. File picture: AFP.
A Marie Stopes International clinic. On Nov 19, 2018 Kenya banned the international charity from offering abortion services to women and girls after complaints it was promoting the termination of unwanted pregnancies. File picture: AFP.

Campaigners in Kenya challenge Marie Stopes abortion ban in court

By By Nita Bhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation Time of article published Nov 30, 2018

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NAIROBI - A human

rights group on Friday challenged the Kenyan government in court

over banning international charity Marie Stopes from providing

abortion services, saying the move would drive thousands of

women and girls to backstreet clinics.

Kenyan authorities directed Marie Stopes to suspend offering

abortions and post-abortion care on Nov. 14, after complaints

its media campaign was promoting the termination of unwanted

pregnancies - a charge the charity denies.

Abortions are not permitted in Kenya unless a woman's life

or health is in danger and emergency treatment is required.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) said it had filed a

petition calling on the high court to declare the ban by the

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB)

unconstitutional and have it lifted immediately.

"Marie Stopes is providing emergency abortions and

post-abortive care - and this is provided for under the

constitution," Evelyne Opondo, CRR's Africa director, told the

Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The constitution also states that emergency care is a right

of every citizen and so Marie Stopes - like any other health

facility - has an obligation to provide such care."

Opondo said the ban would have a huge impact on the women

and girls from poor informal settlements who make up the

majority of the charity's patients. It would drive many to

backstreet clinics, putting their lives at risk, she added.

Marie Stopes - which has worked in Kenya for more than three

decades and has 22 clinics across the east African nation - said

it was not part of the petition.

The charity said its media campaign was aimed at creating

public awareness of Kenya's high rates of unsafe abortion,

rather than encouraging people to terminate their pregnancies.

"Wherever we work, Marie Stopes International respects and

complies with national laws and regulations governing abortion,"

a spokesman for Marie Stopes Kenya said.

"In Kenya, abortion is legally permitted when a woman's

health or life is at risk, yet a lack of awareness about the law

means on average seven women die every day as the result of an

unsafe abortion."

UNDER THE SCANNER

Almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in

2012 - mostly in backstreet clinics - with one in four women and

girls suffering complications such as high fever, sepsis, shock

and organ failure, said a February health ministry report.

An estimated 266 women die per 100,000 unsafe abortions in

Kenya - higher than rates estimated in other east African

nations, it added.

This is not the first time Marie Stopes - which works in 37

countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America as well as the

United States - has faced a suspension or closure over its

abortion services.

Earlier this week, Niger's health ministry ordered two

clinics run by the charity to close because it had performed

abortions, which is banned under Nigerien law except in cases

when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life.

A British watchdog in 2016 suspended the charity from

performing abortions on under-18s and vulnerable women, and

suspended abortions under general anaesthetic after raising

concerns over patient care.

Pro-life campaigners lobbying for Marie Stopes clinics to be

shut down across Africa criticised the bid to have the ban

lifted.

"Abortion is illegal in Kenya, these guys are fighting a

losing battle and they should spare us the attention-seeking

stunts," said Ann Kioko, Africa campaigns manager for CitizenGO.

"Our efforts to save babies from the abortion mill are not

stopping any time soon. It has been a booming baby killing

business for Marie Stopes, but their days are numbered." 

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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