In Kenya, abortions are illegal, but ngos say every year there are thousands of botched abortions that kill or maim women and girls.
One organization – Family Health Options Kenya – says it’s time to “break the silence” about illegal abortions. Dr. Joachim Osur is assistant programs director. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about illegal abortions.
“The maternal deaths that are related to pregnancy are still very high. About 590 per 100,000 live births. One-third of these deaths are caused by unsafe abortions. So, for every third woman who dies from pregnancy related problems, the death is because of an unsafe abortion,” he says.
Dr. Osur describes one graphic scene attributed to illegal abortions. “A few months ago, we had a lot of fetuses thrown in the streets. These fetuses had been aborted. And what it looks like is that someone was doing it illegally and did not know where to take these fetuses. So they were thrown somewhere and the public came across them.”
He says that some women who want abortions trigger them by inserting sticks, knitting needles or spoons, for example, into their uteruses. Others may go to traditional healers or people with some medical knowledge, but who know little about abortions. The result can be infection and sterility or even death, according to Dr. Osur.
“There is a lot of stigma and discrimination because people relate abortion to killing the baby. So those who procure abortions are said to be sinners, to be murderers and people who deserve punishment,” he says.
He says that many African laws banning abortions stem from colonial times. “Some countries have changed these laws and have made abortion legal. And have kind of controlled deaths, which result from unsafe abortions. We need to be very open and talk about abortion as a problem in the country because if we don’t talk about it women will continue dying. What we have also learned is that whether you change laws or not you do not change the number of women going for abortions.” Dr. Osur says, however, laws permitting abortions reduce of the risk to women because they would have access to proper medical care.