Abortion is termination of pregnancy before the fetus is viable. In the medical sense, this term and the term miscarriage both refer to the termination of pregnancy before the fetus is capable of survival outside the uterus. The term abortion is more commonly used as a synonym for induced abortion, the deliberate interruption of pregnancy, as opposed to miscarriage, which connotes a spontaneous or natural loss of the fetus.

What then can explain the reported 310,000 annual abortions in Kenya? It is safe to say that behind nearly every abortion in Kenya, is an unwanted pregnancy. Most experts agree that the high rate of abortion can be explained by ignorance of or lack of access to contraceptives. Around 85% of teenage girls engaging in sex do not use contraceptives. 70% of this same group reportedly engages in casual, unprotected sex. In a recent survey conducted in Kenyan schools, only a quarter of the female students knew that contraceptive pills were to be taken by females, not the males. An even less number knew to take the pills every day, not just before sex. Other statistics show that it is only 28% of women aged 20 – 24 that are using contraceptives.

Common Medical Reasons for Abortion:

  • A young woman under age 16 has not reached physical maturity. She may suffer prolonged labour or other problems with delivery which can lead to health problems or even death of the mother or the infant.
  • Young women, especially those under age 15, are more likely than women age 20 and older to experience premature labour, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) and stillbirths. Infant death rates are typically higher for adolescent mothers than for women over 20.

The Dangers of Unsafe Abortion:

Many women have died from unsafe abortions or have developed health problems. Some immediate health complications include severe bleeding or infection, which can lead to death. Some women suffer from long- term problems including not being able to get pregnant again or living in constant pain.

Common Social Reasons for Abortion:

Young women can pursue formal education, work outside the home and achieve their future goals. Men can pursue education and jobs without the pressure of providing for a family. Delayed pregnancy can mean smaller families and can offer economic benefits. Pregnant girls often drop out of school and few girls return to school after giving birth. The responsibility for caring for a child, as well as limited education because of school drop out, reduce a young  woman’s access to jobs and income-earning opportunities.

Some young women find themselves rejected by the father of the child, or even by their own families.

What does the law in Kenya say about abortion?

Article 26 in the new constitution was the bone of contention between the pro-life and pro-choice groups in the build up to last year’s referendum.

Article 26 of the Constitution contains 4 clauses on the rights to life which state that:

  1. Every person has the right to life;
  2. The life of a person begins at conception;
  3. A person shall not be deprived of life intentionally, except to the extent authorized by this constitution or other written law;
  4. Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is a need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.

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