As I noted last month (“Kenya is reconsidering its abortion law“, September 19, 2008), there are plans to table a new bill, The Reproductive Health and Rights Bill 2008, before the Kenyan Parliament, with a view to revising its ancient laws criminalizing abortion doctors, women seeking an abortion, and those helping them. The Catholic church and the Muslim leaders have predictably opposed it and the bill is thought extremely unlikely to prevail.
Meanwhile of course illegal abortion in Kenya continues, and is highly risky because of the unhealthy conditions and the nature of the quacks and folk medics who are still willing to procure abortions. Najum Mushtaq reports in a piece for IPS News Agency that Ministry of Health produced a study in 2004 financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and titled “A National Assessment of the Magnitude and Consequences of Unsafe Abortion in Kenya”. According to the study’s findings, says Mushtaq, “300,000 women get abortions in Kenya each year, nearly half of them between 14 and 24 years of age. More than 20,000 of them end up in hospitals with complications after unsafe abortions.
Another study of hospitals in Western Kenya notes that almost 50 percent of all gynaecological emergencies arise from badly-performed abortions. The research, which was carried out in 2006 by Kakamega Provincial General Hospital in Western Kenya, also observed that more than half such patients were teenagers.
Serious problems for a developing nation that needs to be careful how it expends its limited medical resources.