, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 – A case in which the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) and Centre for Reproductive Rights have sued Ministry of Health (MoH) for withdrawing standard guidelines on safe abortions commenced Tuesday before a five-judge bench.
The lobby groups began making their case by calling University of Nairobi’s (UoN) Professor Joseph Kamau as a witness to support their cause.
The gynaecologist who had previously worked for Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and consulted for the MoH told Justices Aggrey Muchelule, Mumbi Ngugi, George Odunga, John Mativo and Lydia Achode that there is need to have the guidelines reinstated.
According to Professor Kamau, the guidelines steer doctors on how to deal with complicated pregnancies in order to reduce mortality rate.
He explained to the bench that no woman is forced to terminate a pregnancy even when the situation is dire.
But he stunned the court by saying that an unborn child is not a person and therefore has no rights.
“It is only after birth that an unborn child becomes a person who the government recognizes,” he said.
Five years ago, the MoH withdrew the said guidelines following failure by stakeholder’s to agree on them.
As a result, it directed health workers to stop attending trainings and workshops on safe abortion.
The petitioners have since faulted the move on grounds that it bars health workers from accessing medical information through trainings, develop skills in life saving, abortion care and to provide patients with accurate information.
They further argue that the affected women are forced to seek abortion care from quacks and face serious risks of damage to their health and others lead to death.
The lobby groups insist that it is important that the Ministry advises when health workers should provide safe and legal abortion.
On its part, the ministry has opposed the case maintaining that abortion is illegal and the training’s on the same cannot proceed.