NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – To or not to legalise abortion is a debacle as old as time and in Kenya, no different.
It has brought sharp divisions within Parliament and even religious institutions.
Forums organised by various pro-choice or pro-abortion groups to advocate for the adoption of the ‘woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy’ have in the past ended in disarray, here in Kenya. Pro-life groups storm the pro-choice venues; barbs sometimes even blows are exchanged. Religious groups especially the Catholic Church have been at the forefront of the anti-abortion campaign.
They say ‘once an egg is fertilised, life has began.’ Any deliberate termination of that pregnancy has been called murder.
The Reproductive Health and Rights Bill (2008) which is before Parliament addresses various health issues including an attempt to legalise abortion in the country.
This, the Bill argues, will ensure women won’t have to go to the dens of backstreet doctors.
But a recent survey by The Steadman Group shows that more than half of Kenya’s population is opposed to legalising abortion regardless of the circumstance.
The survey indicates that 56 percent of Kenyans would never support abortion, while 30 percent feel that it should only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger.
Steadman Group Managing Director, George Waititu says the countrywide survey indicates that those with formal education are more liberal and the supporters of ‘the right to choose’.
“Some people argue that aborting is tantamount to killing. Others argue that it is going to promote irresponsible (behaviour) when it comes to matters of life and reproduction,” Mr Waititu notes.
“But the other thing we also find is that the Muslims are most conservative on this issue because three quarters of those who were Muslims within our sample had indicated they would not want abortion to be legalised,” he adds.
The survey says 45 percent of Christians would allow abortion to take place while Muslims are largely conformist with 26 percent allowing the procedure.
The study conducted in December 2008 shows that only six percent of those interviewed felt that a mother should be allowed to abort if the pregnancy occurred as a result of rape.
However, if the life of the child or the foetus in this case is in danger, only a paltry one percent would agree with abortion.
“You can clearly see here that there is more mercy towards the mothers’ life as opposed to the foetus life,” says Mr Waititu.
“This is surprising in that the 30 percent who would allow abortion if the life of the mother is in danger, did not necessarily show same sympathy if the life of the foetus was in danger,” he adds.
When it comes to gender, it shows that 58 percent of men would never allow abortion to take place compared to 54 percent of women.
“Of interest is that men are (equal) players in bringing about unwanted pregnancy, yet they oppose abortion. This is a bit confusing, and might suggest that men tend to avoid responsibility, without providing a solution,” stated part of the report.
“Any effort to address abortion must therefore fully involve men.”
When the mothers life is in danger, only 27 percent of men would allow abortion to be legalised compared to 31 percent women.