Campaigners in Kenya challenge Marie Stopes abortion ban in court
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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
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
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
"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."