News / Africa

US Groups Scrutinize Abortion Details in Kenya's Draft Constitution

Statistics indicate nearly half of deaths from unsafe abortions take place in Africa
Statistics indicate nearly half of deaths from unsafe abortions take place in Africa
Nico Colombant

U.S. groups are closely scrutinizing abortion language in Kenya's draft constitution which will be submitted in a referendum in August.  Our correspondent has reaction from the groups, after several U.S. lawmakers demanded a probe into whether U.S. officials are breaking a little-known U.S. law by favoring the document.

Both abortion-rights and anti-abortion groups have reservations about Kenya's proposed constitution, and its inclusion of abortion law, but for different reasons.

The director of international operations at the pro-Christian and pro-life American Center for Law and Justice, Jordan Sekulow, approves a line saying life begins at conception, but not what follows.

"It starts out saying life begins at conception but has the well-known abortion exception known as the health of the mother exception, and the way that has been interpreted not just in the United States but around the world by judges and attorneys is that basically that allows for abortion on demand," said Jordan Sekulow. "That can be for any reason, because you do not feel good, because you are pregnant, so you can have an abortion.  So what it does is put conflicting language in a constitution that just does not coordinate correctly."

Sekulow has been been working with affiliate partners in Kenya at the East Africa Center for Law and Justice to defeat the draft constitution for the abortion reason and several other parts of the document, such as the inclusion of Islamic courts.

The proposed constitution outlaws abortion, but not if a trained health professional estimates there is a need for one in an emergency situation, if the woman's life is in danger, or if an abortion is permitted by any other written law.

The U.S. ambassador in Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, welcomed parliament's approval of the overall draft text.  For years, the United States has been pressing Kenya to pass a new constitution, and the U.S. government has spent money to help with the process.  But several Republican lawmakers are pointing out the existence of a law called the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign assistance funds to lobby for or against abortion.

Earlier this month, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, who is the leading Republican on the House Africa and Global Health Subcommittee, and two other congressmen, wrote a letter requesting an immediate audit of all U.S. funds used in relation to Kenya's proposed constitution.

U.S. groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights are also looking at the constitutional developments in Kenya closely, but they are concerned with the health of women.  Kenyan organizations estimate up to 300,000 abortions take place every year, even though the practice is currently outlawed.

Elisa Slattery, the group's legal adviser for Africa, says the proposed constitution makes progress, but it does not do enough to ensure women have a choice to seek a legal and safe abortion.

"Basically right now, it talks about a health and a life exception, but we know that women terminate pregnancies for many reasons including sexual violence, or grinding poverty, and so restricting access to safe abortions does not stop women from ending an unwanted pregnancy," said Elisa Slattery. "It just forces them to use painful, dangerous and often lethal methods."

Slattery says her group's research shows more than a third of maternal deaths in Kenya are caused by botched abortions.  She cites statistics that say 44 percent of deaths from unsafe abortions take place in Africa.

"Women drink bleach," she said. "They drink detergent.  They insert pens into their uteruses.  We interviewed a medical provider who said she had a woman coming to her facility who had had an unsafe abortion and they could smell her as she walked down the street because she was septic.  There were flies following her.  And for the women who do survive they often are rendered infertile or they are disabled for life.  And then there are the women who die and often their deaths just are not captured.  There just are so many untold stories of women who have died from unsafe abortions."

Advocates from both sides agree Kenya's constitution has become a battleground for the abortion issue.  They are also equally surprised the law concerning abortion was included in Kenya's new constitution.  A 'yes' vote for the draft constitution, as Kenyan media report is likely, will make it very difficult to change the way the country's system deals with the divisive matter.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid