Fresh study on foetus defects reignites abortion debate
SEE ALSO :How medical students aid with abortionsThe study, published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth on May 23 recommends screening for birth defects be made part of primary health care and available to all pregnant women. “This will help diagnose congenital defects earlier and aid in planning for early interventions,” say the authors who describe the study as the first on the subject in Kenya. “This study highlights the need for Kenyan health systems to go beyond the medical dimensions of illness.” The authors, while not explicit on what should happen where defects are too severe for the child to survive, report that one such pregnancy in the study group was terminated. “There was a single pregnancy termination, due to multiple anomalies, some of which were by themselves fatal,” says the study.
SEE ALSO :40,000 girls get pregnant in KilifiThe Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) and Centre for Reproductive Rights have sued the Ministry of Health for withdrawing the guidelines in a case being presided over by a five-judge bench at the High Court. Already a key expert witness for the plaintiffs, Prof Joseph Kamau of the University of Nairobi has testified that in matters abortion the unborn child has no rights. Prof Kamau argues that an unborn child is not a person and therefore has no rights. “It is only after birth that an unborn child becomes a person who the government recognises,” he said. He says that the life of a mother is more important than that of an unborn baby. The argument is contrasted by the constitution, which recognises life to start at conception. “That may be so but in this case we are talking about some pregnancies that are not viable and pose a health risk to the mother,” says Saoyo. The human rights advocate cites the Health Act 2017 currently being operationalised, which in Chapter Six allows safe abortion if the foetus is incompatible with life. The Act says in part: “Every person has a right to reproductive health care, which includes access to treatment including for abnormal pregnancy conditions.” The contested document published in 2012 guides health workers on among others how to manage risky, abnormal and unwanted pregnancies. The lobby groups insist that it is important that the ministry gives direction on when health workers should provide safe and legal abortion. Lola Wambua, 71 of Tassia Catholic Church in Embakasi, Nairobi says man or woman, none has the right to decide which child live or dies. “Not even a paining mother, has the right to bend the divine will of God: the Church must resist this arrogance,” she told the Saturday Standard. But while the KNH study may be news to Lola and other poor families; upmarket women are paying as much as Sh100,000 for the testing of foetuses for genetic disorders outside Kenya. The women are sending blood samples to laboratories in the UK, US, South Africa and India to investigate whether the babies they carry have genetic disorders such as the Down syndrome, Patau syndrome or Edwards syndrome. On knowing they may prepare psychologically to live with the problem, or abort the foetus all within Kenya laws. www.rocketscience.co.ke