News

Kenya Debates Abortion Bill

Multimedia

A bill now before Kenya's parliament would legalize abortion, making Kenya the first East African country to do so. The issue of abortion is highly emotional in Kenya. Women's groups argue that the Reproductive Health and Rights Bill will protect women from death and injury due to backstreet abortions, while critics say abortion violates African traditions and culture and is being pressed by Western interests.

Some 2,000 Kenyan women are estimated to die each year because of botched abortions.

Illegal 'backstreet' abortions

According to Kenyan government figures, 300,000 backstreet abortions are performed in the country yearly, with 20,000 women being hospitalized due to abortion-related complications.

It is numbers like these that propelled the Federation of Women Lawyers, or FIDA, to help draft the Reproductive Health and Rights Bill 2008, which seeks to legalize abortion. Grace Kimani is director of programs with FIDA.

"Instead of watching women die out of having unsafe abortions, or women being hospitalized and the government using a large percentage of its resources to then treat women who have had incomplete or unsafe abortions," Kimani said. "Why not then provide legislation whereby women feel safe and comfortable in terms of coming forward to have a termination of pregnancy?"

Legal vs. Illegal abortions

The abortion debate has been raging in Kenya since the bill's introduction in Parliament last year, and with President Barack Obama's recent decision to lift the ban on funding groups that support abortion

On the one side are those who argue that women have the right to safe medical procedures if they choose to terminate a pregnancy.

On the other is the view that choosing to terminate the life of a fetus is not only morally wrong but also is alien to African culture, which traditionally welcomes the arrival of children.

"Children even belong to the community, and there is no community that throws away a child," said gynecologist and pro-life activist Dr. Jean Kagia. "Even when the mother dies, there is always somebody else who will take over that child."

In Dr. Kagia's view, the issue does not boil down to a simple clash between the rights of a woman verses the rights of her unborn child, as is the case in the U.S. and other places.

She argues that African women need to have their basic rights fulfilled first. 

"The common African woman does not have access to clean water. She does not have a good shelter. She is going to go for long distances to get water. She does not have access to good food. The health care services are very, very far away, and you find some of them even do not have access to education," she said. "So if you look at that woman, her priority is her rights. It may not be to kill her baby, but to have these basic rights, which she is missing."

She blames what she calls "Western interests" for introducing and fueling the abortion debate, saying they are seeking to undermine traditional African values.  

But this view is dismissed by pro-choice advocates, such as Grace Kimani. 

"There were herbs and there were different concoctions used in our past, in our culture, in the olden days that were used actually very early on in pregnancy to ensure that the pregnancy does not continue," she said.

She says that poor rural and urban women rarely get child-rearing assistance from family members, friends, and even their husbands, who are in equally dire circumstances.

For now, the debate continues. Kenya is the first East African country to consider legalizing abortion.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs