State rejects Health Care Bill that seeks to legalise abortion
The government has rejected the Reproductive Health Care Bill sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika that seeks to legalise abortion.
In its submissions to the Senate, the Ministry of Health (MoH) led by Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the proposed provisions normalises abortion on demand, contrary to the Constitution and the values the country upholds.
The ministry argues the bill has introduced a loophole for termination of pregnancies as a method of Family Planning, adding that determination of a pregnancy was complex professional opinion that can only be expressed by a competent health professional.
Apart from the provision of termination of pregnancy, the bill has other numerous provisions for reproductive health, including family planning, assisted reproduction and safe motherhood.
Health Care Provider
“This Bill seeks to transfer a highly technical output that is opinion to terminate pregnancy, to cadres of health care providers not proficient to make such a decision, a transfer that is not consistent with the Kenyan Medical Proficiency Training,” told the committee chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito.
In the submission to the senate Committee on Health that is scrutinising the bill, MoH said that the bill was “fundamentally defective,” vague on the technical issues of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
According to the ministry, while any health care provider can be trained to terminate a pregnancy the decision for termination should be left to certain cadres which in Kenya falls under the medical practitioners including a multi-disciplinary input, especially in crisis pregnancies.
“The Reproductive Health Bill, 2019 is fundamentally defective, is vague on the emotive technical issues of SRHR and ART, needs to broaden its scope on Reproductive Health, and excludes principle constituencies of content and population,” read the brief to the senate.
“The approach taken by Reproductive Health is holistic while that of Reproductive rights as proposed gives room to objectify the act of reproduction , and normalize harmful practices such as indiscriminate sex for pleasure, and unnatural acts harmful to the emotional , mental and psychological development of persons below the age of 21,” adds the ministry.
The Bill has already divided church leaders and members of the civil society down the middle.
While the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has opposed the Bill on grounds it is against the Constitution and the right to life, the civil society group under the umbrella name Centre for Reproductive Rights have accused the clergy of intentionally misleading the general public on the contents of the Bill.
KCCB last month led by Nakuru Catholic Bishop Maurice Muhatia said the bill is against the Constitution and as such should not enacted in to law.
Civil society groups on the other hand including Amnesty International, The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Federation of Women Lawyers and Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICH) among others said the constitution provides for safe abortions services where the life or health of the pregnant woman.
During the constitution making process religious leaders opposed the passage of the Constitution on grounds that it was legalizing abortion in the country.
The High Court in 2015 ruled that women and girls who suffer sexual violence can also access safe abortion services if in the opinion of a trained health provider is that their life or health is in danger.
But yesterday in its brief to the senate, the MoH said that the scope of the Bill falls short of its intended objectives as the bill whose main focus is on assisted reproduction selectively attempts to address Family planning, safe motherhood and termination of pregnancy, reproductive health of adolescents, information and treatment of HIV/Aids and Female Genital Mutilation.
“For every person to enjoy the Reproductive health rights, the bill should include areas such as reproductive tract cancers, infertility, menstrual disorders, menopause and sexually transmitted infections, among others and to include all persons in need of reproductive health care,” adds the brief.