Solidarity Alliance Statement in support of activists in Kenya

July 2, 2019 shutterstock_443810230

We, the Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion, commend the events that unfolded in Kenya on June 12, 2019 where the Centre for Reproductive Right won a landmark case challenging the Kenyan government’s withdrawal of the “Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya”. Although the five-judge bench declined to hold that a foetus is not a person and therefore has no rights, it did rule that pregnancies resulting from rape can be terminated with the help of an expert.[1]

In February 2014 the Kenyan Ministry of Health, who were influenced by powerful Christian pro-life organisations[2] withdrew the Guidelines and Standards through a memo, with the position that abortion was illegal and  therefore trainings for service providers on abortion could not proceed.[3] Following these actions, in 2015 petitioners filed a case against the Attorney General, Director of Medical Services and the Ministry of Health.[4] After four years, the courts provided a comprehensive ruling which declared that women and girls have the right to the highest attainable standard of health and declared that the memo violated and threatened the rights and health of workers.[5]

Hovering over the petition was the case of JMM, known only by her initials, an adolescent girl aged 15 who became pregnant after she was raped in 2014.[6] She had a backstreet abortion which left her with injuries that ultimately resulted in her death. The court awarded 3 million Kenyan shillings in repatriations to her family for poor post-abortion care at a government hospital and stated rape survivors should be permitted to have abortions under certain circumstances.[7]

In a survey conducted in 2012 by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, African Population and Health Research and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards  (IPSAS) found that nearly half (49%) of all pregnancies in Kenya were unintended and 41% of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion.[8] Marie Stopes International estimates that seven women die each day from unsafe abortions in the country.[9] The guidelines, which have now been reinstated, were addressing this pressing issue through information around methods of procuring safe abortion and post abortion care, which were under the premise of the provision of the law that indicates abortion is necessary only in the opinion of a trained health professional or when the life and health of the mother is in danger.[10]

This is an important first step in the long road ahead towards the full realisation of the right to safe abortion for all women and girls in Kenya. There can be no compromise to women’s right to safe abortion and we therefore call on the Kenyan government to work towards decriminalising abortion on all grounds in the interest of every woman and girl living in Kenya. #Victory4Wanjiku!

Furthermore, decriminalising abortion and liberalising abortion legislation is integral to ensuring women’s health and rights. We call for the removal of conditionality and restrictions in abortion law and for the recognition of a women’s right to safe abortion as a human right by all parties concerned.

We urge all decision makers to prioritise all women’s reproductive rights, including the right to safe abortion so that no woman suffers from the life-threatening complications of unsafe abortion and that no woman dies from the lack of access to quality safe abortion information and services.

We call for assurances, guarantees and protection of all women’s right to life, health, freedom from discrimination, bodily integrity and autonomy.

We also call for universal access to contraceptive services, including emergency contraception, of high quality and variety, is user friendly and appropriate to the needs of women, including young women.

Finally, we call for guarantees of universal access to affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services including safe abortion services for all women.

 

About Us:

The Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion was launched in 2018 and currently comprises 7 civil society organisations; Naripokkho, Association for Prevention of Septic Abortion (BAPSA), Reproductive Health Association Cambodia (RHAC), CommonHealth, Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNNR) and the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) committed to realising the right to safe abortion for all women through strategic interventions that recognise abortion as a rights issue.

If you or your organisation is interested in joining the Alliance please sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc6BLEzJqb14J2ixjj6RTj_W7DXROdoOXOu_MZER_7GB6qqsg/viewform or scan the QR code below:

 

 

[1] Capital FM, “High Court rules abortion remains illegal in Kenya”, June 13 2019, https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2019/06/high-court-rules-abortion-remains-illegal-in-kenya/

[2] Reuters 2019, Kenyan activist’s death in botched abortion spotlights ‘killer’ backstreet clinics” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-women-abortion/kenyan-activists-death-in-botched-abortion-spotlights-killer-backstreet-clinics-idUSKCN1Q42H0

[3] Ibid.

[4] International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, “Kenya – Victory in landmark ruling challenging the withdrawal of ‘The Standards and Guidelines’ https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/kenya-victory-in-landmark-ruling-challenging-the-withdrawal-of-the-standards-guidelines/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Press Summery – Petition 266 of 2015, https://www.judiciary.go.ke/press-summary-petition-266-of-2015/

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mohamed SF, Izugbara C, Moore AM, Mutua M, Kimani-Murage EW, Ziraba AK, Bankole A, Singh SD, Egesa C (August 2015). “The estimated incidence of induced abortion in Kenya: a cross-sectional study”BMC Pregnancy Childbirth15: 185. doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0621-1PMC 4546129PMID 26294220.

[9] Ratcliffe, Rebecca (21 December 2018). “Kenya lifts ban on Marie Stopes abortion services after warning lives are at risk”the Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2019.

[10] Citizen Digital, “Court rules abortion illegal in Kenya, reinstates guidelines on safe abortion” https://citizentv.co.ke/news/high-court-rules-abortion-illegal-in-kenya-reinstates-guidelines-on-safe-abortion-257893/

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