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Kenyan clergy rework abortion clause

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 12 – Public Health Minister Beth Mugo now claims to have hammered a deal with religious leaders and medical practitioners to end the controversial abortion debate that has threatened to derail the new Constitution.

Mrs Mugo told journalists on Friday that she met the stakeholders last Wednesday and agreed to remove the word ‘abortion’ from the Constitution and the contentious clause that says abortion can be allowed by a legislation.

“We agreed that the new section will read: Termination of pregnancy is not permitted, however expectant mothers are entitled to medical treatment,” she said.

Mrs Mugo said she will table the amendment for consideration by MPs when debate on the Proposed Constitution begins next Tuesday but she faces the hard task of rallying at least 148 Members of Parliament to pass it.

The draft states that: “Abortion shall not be allowed unless in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life of the mother is in danger or if permitted by any other written law.”

“We felt that the new clause will cover all situations of medical concern and the religious fraternity.”

Those present at the meeting included: Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, PCEA Moderator David Gathanju, Kenya Episcopal Conference Secretary Vincent Wambugu and the Deputy Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Oliver Kisaka. Others are National Muslim Leaders Forum Abdullahi Abdi and gynaecologists Dr Jean Kagia and a Dr Karanja.

“I can confirm we are in agreement with the new clause,” NCCK Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja told Capital News on phone.

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Religious leaders have threatened to shoot down the Constitution if the clause allowing abortion through any other written law is not removed.

“We have agreed with them that they will explain this (proposed amendment) in their churches and mosques,” Mrs Mugo said.

Elsewhere the Parliamentary Caucus on Reforms admitted it was a mistake for MPs to have rejected the Naivasha retreat that would have given them an opportunity to iron out contentious issues. Over 50 MPs met on Friday and promised to lead consensus building amongst politicians.

Convener Danson Mungatana told a news conference that they would be working to bridge the gap among their colleagues including pushing the House to reconsider the aborted retreat.

“Whether the Constitution should be passed with or without amendments are both legitimate positions,” he said.

The differences between ODM and PNU led to the rejection of the Naivasha retreat scheduled for this weekend aimed at enlightening the MPs on the proposed law and seek common stand before the debate begins in the House.

“Next week we shall be instituting the correct procedure to have the retreat so that we can talk and understand each other outside the House,” said the Garsen MP.

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