Parliament rejected proposed amendments to the clause on abortion, setting the stage for a confrontation with religious leaders.

A section of religious leaders have been at loggerheads with medical practitioners on the emotive issue of terminating pregnancy.

All proposed amendments to article 26 on the right to life failed to pass. Gender Minister Esther Murugi moved the first amendment to delete clauses 2, 3 and 4.

"The only clause that should be retained is ‘every person has the right to life’," Murugi told the House, saying subsidiary legislation can detail the rest.

She said a reproductive health Bill could address all other issues.

"Every woman knows life begins when the sperm meets her egg and that is why they resort to the Morning After Pill," she said.

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, his Immigration counterpart Otieno Kajwang’ and Gwassi MP John Mbadi withdrew similar amendments and backed Murugi’s.

Act of Parliament

Prof Nyong’o said the clauses had introduced "extreme controversy" and only a broad provision addressing the concerns of all Kenyans was desirable.

He said the nation had embraced family planning programmes to which the clauses were in conflict. MPs argued that an Act of Parliament could address the matter in detail.

Lands Minister James Orengo, MPs Elizabeth Ongoro, Joyce Laboso, Millie Odhiambo, Amina Abdallah and Joshua Kutunny supported the view.

But at the time the division bell was rung, there were only 101 MPs, 44 short of the required number for the vote to proceed.

Up next was Public Health Minister Beth Mugo’s proposal to have clause 4 deleted and substituted with the following: "Termination of pregnancy is not permitted, but expectant mothers are entitled to emergency medical treatment in life threatening conditions."

While moving the amendment, Mugo said she had received consent from religious leaders and a parents’ caucus.

"The religious communities consented to the amendment, so it is an agreed position. We also have a memorandum from parents’ caucus supporting the amendment. I believe if we don’t give this window, the religious sector is bound to reject the draft," she said.

Kinangop MP David Ngugi supported the amendment, saying churches would reject the proposed law if their interests were not taken care of.

"If there is anything that would make this constitution not pass it is the Church," he said.

But Co-operative Development Assistant Minister Lina Jebii Kilimo opposed the amendment, arguing termination of pregnancy is another phrase for abortion and the amendment as proposed was not different from what was already in the document.

Education Assistant Minister Ayiecho Olweny agreed with her, adding churches were part of the review process and should not complain on an issue they took part in debating.

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