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Health Ministry publishes charter on abortion

By Gatonye Gathura

Nairobi, Kenya: Hundreds of thousands of women continue to suffer the pain of backstreet abortions almost three years after the Constitution allowed for restricted abortion pegged on the opinion of a professional medical worker.

To operationalise these demands of the Constitution, the Ministry of Health has published a Patients Charter which spells out what a patient can ask for including emergency care and access to information on facilities that offer the care.

The charter published in April says the Constitution guarantees every person health care services, maternal and reproductive health care and the right to emergency medical treatment.

The Health Ministry now wants its workers and those in the private medical sector to familiarise themselves with the charter and implement it. This means any woman presented at a hospital with an incomplete abortion must be attended to urgently.

Requisite skills

At the same time medical workers are, according to the charter, required to offer a woman with an unwanted pregnancy all options open to her including abortion where it is legally applicable.

In the forward to the National Study on Abortion released yesterday the Director of Medical Services Dr Francis Kimani argued that it is important to adequately equip health providers with the requisite skill and knowledge to provide quality abortion-related care to women.

The study reads in part; “The effective implementation of the Constitution has the potential to promote women’s access to safe abortion services and support reductions in complications of unsafe abortion.”

It further calls for the urgent training of providers to offer safe services and for the wider implementation of the abortion care-related Standards and Guidelines of the Ministry of Health published in September.

For example the study calls for the removal of older abortion technologies such as ‘curettage’ - the use of a ‘currete’ to scoop the foetus from the womb - because it is not safe.

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