NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o is opposed to the inclusion of an anti-abortion clause in the draft constitution, arguing that it should instead be left to legislation by Parliament.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review amended a clause on abortion in the Harmonised Draft Constitution stating that life begins at conception and abortion should only be legal where the life of a mother was in danger.
“When a child is still in the womb, it is the personality of the mother that controls the child. The mother feeds so that a child can feed so it is the life of the mother that really controls the life of the child,” the Minister said.
“The foetus has not yet started a life of its own and this is what God intended. The moment the baby is born, there is a personality born,” he added, stressing that in his opinion life begins at birth.
“People abort for very specific reasons. If a lady conceives as a result of rape, you put that lady under torture if she wants to abort and you refuse. They can even become a mental case! So abortion is something that should be dealt with by doctors, psychologists and family counselors,” he said.
The abortion debate has dominated the public scene for many years now, with Kenyans divided between pro-life and pro-choice groups. A good example of the divisions was evident at the Ministry, with Prof Nyong’o’s Permanent Secretary Professor James ole Kiyiapi insisting that life begins at conception.
“My Bible tells me that I knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb. For me therefore, the philosophical debate is everywhere but it is very clear that life begins at conception,” he said.
“Some people are arguing that because some conception does not turn out to be therefore it negates the view of life beginning at conception. It shouldn’t! It is just like when people are born, some live to old age and others don’t. Same thing to children who are conceived – some grow until they are delivered and others are lost in between,” Professor Kiyiapi said.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Women Lawyers, the Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and the National Nurses Association have championed for the deletion of the anti-abortion clause.
KMA Chairman Dr Otieno Nyunya said the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review should only state that everyone has a right to life and not state where life begins.
“This is not in the realm of science. Muslims, Catholics and non believers have different beliefs,” he said.
He recommended against constitutionally restricting access to safe abortion in the country.
He further said not all conceptions lead to birth due to medical conditions and other related complications of the foetus which he classified as ‘spontaneous abortion.’
Prof Joseph Karanja of the Kenya Obstetrical and Gynecological Society said prohibiting abortion in the Constitution would encourage the proliferation of quacks who offer the services.
On Monday, church leaders hailed the amended clause, saying it protects the life of an unborn child.