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What the Government must do to end illegal abortions
By Vincent Ogaya | Updated Aug 20, 2015 at 09:48 EAT

The Standard on Monday carried details of how the business of abortion continues to thrive in the country despite the practice being illegal, and certainly punishable under the law. The newspaper must be commended for going the extra mile and profiling stories from different angles, tales that tell the abortion story as it is in Kenya.

The fact that incidences of unsafe abortions have reached endemic levels in this country is no longer a secret. Just as cases of early pregnancies keep on rising, there is manifestation that young people not only engage in sex but they also do so casually and quite often without precaution.

Apart from unwanted pregnancies, they are also exposed to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

It is interesting though that women who procure abortion are from diverse backgrounds. This practice is therefore not a preserve of the young unmarried women as many would believe.

That abortion is currently a problem of the educated as it is for the uneducated women is no longer in doubt. It affects urban and rural women alike. It is a problem among Christians as it is among Muslims and women of 'other faiths'.

But what worries is the disclosure in a 2013 survey report by the African Population and Health Research Centre that half those who seek post-abortion care are below the age of 25, a pointer to the age group that is most affected by the rising abortion cases.

As it is currently, the situation is complicated further by lack of a clear policy and legal environment even for those who are in need of legal abortion services in the meaning of the Constitution. When the Ministry of Health in 2014 withdrew the Standards and Guidelines for reducing mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion in Kenya, the health sector was left groping in the dark in preventing and managing unsafe abortions as provided for by law.

The whole effect is the mushrooming of abortion clinics, some of which may not be specialising in abortion per se, but offer solace to hundreds of thousands of women who attempt to induce abortion elsewhere but need care after a botched operation or for effects of the operation.

The other outcome is attempts to terminate unwanted pregnancies through crude methods for example by drinking detergents and concentrated juice all in a desperate attempt to expel that unwanted foetus.

And of course if the public health system is not able to provide healthcare especially to the vulnerable, then such people opt for alternative means, most of which may be cheaper but not absolutely safe.

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Perhaps the recommendation by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in a national survey conducted in 2012 could offer the solution if we don't want to reach that point of talking about terminating a pregnancy.

KNCHR in its report, Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Kenya: A myth or reality? recommends that "the Government must work towards ensuring that youth friendly, non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health services – including family planning services – are made widely available and accessible to all adolescents and youth in Kenya."

This, the commission noted, must be done by ensuring that every health facility in the country has personnel trained in the delivery of youth-friendly services.

Such services, coupled with the right information on their sexuality, would go a long way in reducing the so many cases of casual sex among young people.

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