Nurse from secondary healthcare center educating the village on the outreach mission

Kenya: Young Women Lack Access to Safe Abortion Services

By Michael Okun Oliech,

Kenya

 

In 2012 the Google Zeitgeist Report ranked abortion as top on the list of the subjects Kenyans search for in the ‘How To’ category. This showed that many girls and women were looking for information on how to abort and that abortion is real in Kenya.

According to the ministry of health, about 310,000 abortions occur every year in Kenya. About 22,000 women are admitted each year due to unsafe abortion-related complications and 2,600 of these eventually die. Out of the women admitted, 12 percent are usually older than 34 years, 40 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34 years while 16 percent are adolescents and teenagers.

Even with the new constitution, abortion is still not permitted in Kenya unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is a need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law. No public hospitals in Kenya offer safe abortion services. As a result, about a fifth of all pregnancies in the country are terminated through very illegal and risky means.

Women in rural areas are the most affected since they have less access to safe abortion services as compared to those in the urban settings hence they have been forced to seek the services of quacks and very risky means to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Behind every abortion, there is always unintended or unwanted pregnancy. The high rates of abortion in Kenya can be explained by ignorance or lack of access to contraceptives. According to the National AIDS Control Council, 85 percent of teenage girls engaging in sex reported to abandon condom use with a sexual partner of unknown HIV status as their relationship continued to grow.  Moreover, according to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, about 40 percent of married and sexually active unmarried girls and women have unmet needs for family planning.

By denying women access to safe abortion services, the Kenyan government is allowing thousands of girls and women in Kenya to suffer severe complications every year due to unsafe abortion, which often results in deaths.

The Ministry of Health should take decisive action to protect the health, lives, families, and future of Kenyan women and girls before more women are needlessly harmed by unsafe abortion.

Investing more on contraceptives and safer abortion services is key to ending maternal deaths brought about by unsafe abortions. Denying a woman access to critical health care she needs can lead to devastating consequences in both her life, her family, her community, and society as a whole.

Michael Okun Oliech is a communication officer at dance4life Kenya, a youth serving Non-Governmental Organization that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy and behavior change communication. He has a BA in Development Studies, undergone training on media advocacy, and budget advocacy by Network for Adolescents and Youths of Africa- Kenya and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He is also a well-known blogger on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Issues, a human rights activist, LGBT rights defender and youth advocate at Network for Adolescents and Youths of Africa. His twitter handle is @mikeokunson.

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