Church asked to rethink stance on Constitution

By Elizabeth Mwai

The Catholic Church should think twice about lobbying its followers to vote against the proposed constitution at the referendum, a rights group has said.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) vice-chairperson Hassan Omar on Friday urged the Catholic Church to call for dialogue on abortion instead of asking its members to shoot down the document.

"The proposed constitution has a lot of good things such as structures of governance and as a church they need to find a way to mitigate the situation," said Hassan.

Speaking to The Standard on Saturday, Hassan said even though abortion was an emotive issue it should not derail the proposed constitution.

The Catholic Church has threatened to ask its followers to reject the proposed constitution because of a clause it perceives will promote abortion.

Human Life International Kenya Council chairman George Kegode said the issue should not be whether to legalise abortion, but establishing why it is on the rise.

He said focus should be on the social, economic and ethical reasons leading to abortion.

"Can we first address reasons why abortion is rife," said Kegode.

"It is unfortunate that because of the clause there is talk of rejecting the proposed constitution."

He said stiffer penalties on rape should be put in place because it is one of the reasons abortion is conducted.

A reproductive health specialist Dr Joachim Osur said the clause puts women’s lives at risk.

Spontaneous abortions

"A third of pregnancies end up as spontaneous abortions or miscarriages forcing doctors to intervene.

In such a situation, Osur said, the burden of proof lies with the woman while the doctors who assist her may go to jail for murder.

"Such a woman will be forced to prove that the miscarriage occurred naturally and there was no interferance,"said Dr Osur.

He warned that such clauses could outlaw the use of emergency contraceptives, which interfere with conception.