UN Wants Kenya to decriminalize abortion

The government of Kenya should decriminalize abortion in all circumstances and ensure adolescents have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services, according to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In a strongly worded statement, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said the Kenyan government should expand access to safe and legal abortion as well as “review its legislation with a view to ensure that girls have access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services and that their views are always heard and respected in abortion decisions.

“We are concerned with the discrimination adolescents face when seeking sexual and reproductive health information and services, and the lack of quality health care services tailored to them,” the statement added.

The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted a letter to the committee that highlighted how adolescents in Kenya are being denied modern contraceptives by health workers based on personal objections and how pervasive gender stereotypes, such as adolescent girls carrying condoms being perceived as promiscuous, negatively impacts access to reproductive health services.

“Every woman and girl in Kenya must be empowered to make her own informed reproductive health choices and get the quality health care services she needs, when she needs it,” said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“These deeply discriminatory practices continue to stand in the way of adolescents making these choices, putting their health and lives at risk. The government of Kenya needs to immediately adopt guidelines for safe abortion services without any further delay and ensure all adolescents have access to unbiased reproductive health services and information,” Opondo said.

In June 2015, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case against the Ministry of Health in the High Court of Kenya for undermining women’s constitutional rights and contributing to cases of maternal death by denying countless women, including rape survivors, access to safe, legal abortion.

Kenya’s 2010 constitution legalized safe abortion services when the life or health of a woman is in danger and in cases of emergency—a measure aimed at decreasing the country’s high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortion. But rights groups in Kenya say that Kenyan women today continue to be denied essential reproductive health services—including quality maternal health care and safe and legal abortion services.