Striking a balance in debate on abortion
A R Bernard, founder of the Christian Cultural Centre, the biggest church in New York, loved to talk about moderation.
“Balance,” he always intoned in his weekly sermons, “is the key to life.” In eating, running, walking, sleeping, working and virtually every facet of life, too much or too little has the net effect of a zero-sum game on the person involved.
And so it is with matters of sexuality and abortion currently trending in Kenya. Moderation becomes the high road of reason.
From the reports inundating the press on rising teenage pregnancies and the procurement of illicit abortions, one would imagine that we have a crisis of epidemic proportions. But these cases are not new.
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Rather, they are old-hat issues supercharged at the beginning of every national examination season by those who wish to make a case for the introduction of comprehensive sexual education (CSE) in schools.
Others view it as a platform to discuss the thorny issue of the introduction of contraceptives to school-going adolescents. But is CSE a solution to teenage pregnancies? Is it morally right to provide nascent youth with contraceptives? Should abortion-on-demand be legalised and made the exclusive choice of women?
An interrogation of these questions involves an examination of what constitutes the country’s moral code. There are those who have argued that morality is subjective. These are the ones who deride those against abortion-on-demand, calling them religious prigs with no say over women’s decisions.
But societies are, many times, bound by a common thread of acceptable morality.
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In Kenya, such a thread has been derived from religious teachings that abhor vices such as murder, slander and theft.
Those who consider abortion their Holy Grail therefore practise a selective application of the Christian moral code.
As it is, the Constitution of Kenya derives from the Christian admonition not to commit murder and expressly states that, “Abortion is not permitted, unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency health treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”
The Constitution, thus, provides the balance needed on the question of when it is permissible to abort.
There is fear that CSE is not the innocuous instruction on sexual intercourse, human reproduction, and promotion of sexual abstinence as the safest sexual choice for young people. A perusal of the curriculums of many nations that have incorporated CSE have shown them to teach homosexuality, masturbation, abortion and sexual promiscuity.
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A step towards balance should include examining the wisdom of encouraging prurient curiosity, especially that which is counter to our traditional mores. It is noteworthy that in African countries where this sort of CSE has been introduced, there has been no precipitate drop in sexually deviant behaviour.
Kenya must be wary of attempts to railroad its collective thinking into solutions that are deleterious to the mental and physical health of its youth.
There must be a consciousness of non-governmental organisations that are donor-funded and have fixed prescriptions that are alien to our laws and culture.
For instance, the distribution of condoms and pills to 14-year-olds is unconscionable as it gives tacit approval to engage in licentious behaviour. A Kenyan-developed CSE curriculum that instructs on the proper place of consensual sex and forbearance, at least until the age of consent, should provide the requisite balance.
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Alternatives to abortion exist. Facilities such as Dr Jean Kagia’s ‘kiotas’ provide the necessary succour for people carrying unwanted pregnancies until solutions are found for the babies.
Abortion has become a fixed career for many medical practitioners. The way some of these illegal practices are carried out is a study in callousness and leave the victims scarred physically and psychologically.
Abortion attracts criminal sanction. Violators must be apprehended and made to face the law. This will help provide the balance that is key to the lives of our youth.
Mr Khafafa is Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council
AbortionChristian moral codeCSE