Abortion Laws in Kenya
Is abortion legal in Kenya ?
Abortion in Kenya is legally restricted. However under Kenyan constitution 2010 Article 26(4), there are exceptions when:
- In the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the [pregnant woman] is in danger
- Permitted by any other written law
The Kenyan penal code has not been revised to reflect the language of the constitution (which is the highest law of the land). The penal code generally prohibits abortion. It lists self-inducing abortion, or providing any other type of “unlawful” abortion, as felonies punishable by a 7–14-year prison sentence. Nonetheless under other provision of the penal code specifically section 240 abortion may be performed to save the life of a pregnant mother.
a) The Standard and Guidelines on Reducing Maternal Mortality and MorbidityThe lack of guidance on how the 2010 change in the Constitution should be implemented meant that both women and health care providers remained uncertain of the circumstances in which abortion was legal. In 2011, the Ministry of Health set up a working group that included NGOs who supported safe abortion in Kenya to draft guidelines on abortion provision in line with the constitution. The Standards and Guidelines on Reducing Maternal Mortality and Morbidity from Unsafe Abortion were published in September 2012 and included up-to-date guidance from the 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) Safe Abortion Guidance. The Ministry of health also issued a curriculum for the training of mid-level providers, including nurses and midwives.
Abruptly, in December 2013, Ministry of Health withdrew the Standards and Guidelines. In February 2014, the Ministry wrote a letter instructing all healthcare providers to halt safe abortion trainings and to stop stocking Medabon (the packet of combined medical abortion pills that doctors were giving women in the first trimester). The letter stated “Abortion on demand is illegal,” so there is no need of training health workers on safe abortion or importation of drugs for medical abortion.”
Given the many repercussions of the withdrawal of the Standards and Guidelines, a petition was filed in June 2015 in the Kenyan High Court against the Attorney General, the Ministry of Health and the Director of Medical Services of Kenya on behalf of the following – the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya, two community human rights mobilisers, an adolescent rape survivor who suffers from kidney failure and other complications of an unsafe abortion, and on behalf of all Kenyan women of reproductive age who were denied access to safe abortions. The petition calls on the government to restore safe abortion training and reintroduce guidelines clarifying when a legal abortion can be provided.
b) Global Gag RuleThe US Helms Amendment continues to prohibit the use of US foreign assistance for safe abortion, and now in 2017, the Mexico City Policy (commonly known as the Global Gag Rule) has also been reimposed yet again. In December 2013, USAID, who fund much of Kenya's family planning provision, warned that anyone receiving US aid should not attend an upcoming government meeting, because the Standards and Guidelines were on the agenda. The next day, the Ministry of Health withdrew the Standards and Guidelines, arguing that there was a need for wider stakeholder consultation on some of the contents of the document. On 3 April the US State. Department issued a letter to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcing it will no longer fund the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which provides maternal and child health services in more than 150 countries worldwide. The UNFPA country programmes fund is one of the largest in Kenya and so its withdrawal will most likely be disastrous.
What are the different abortion services available in Kenya?
- Medical abortion - Abortion pill (Misoprostol, Mifepristone, Cytotec)
- Surgical abortion
- Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA)
- Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
Who can perform abortion services?
In Kenya abortion can be performed by:
- Clinical officer trained in provision of abortion services
Where can I go for abortion services in Kenya?
Reproductive Health Network : This is a network of health professionals in the private and public sector who are committed to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality associated with unsafe abortion and postpartum hemorrhage in Kenya. The network’s membership is drawn from four health professional associations i.e. Kenya Medical Association (KMA), Kenya Obstetrical & Gynecological Society (KOGS) and the National Nurses Association of Kenya (NNAK) and the Kenya Association of Clinical Officers (KCOA). RHN has a nationwide representation with a membership of 400 health providers
Marie Stopes Kenya provides a wide range of high quality, affordable and client- centered reproductive services to women including safe abortion that can be accessed through the Marie Stopes clinics situated in different parts of the country
Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK) delivers a comprehensive range of SRH services. These include: contraception, emergency contraception, antenatal and post-natal services, and post-abortion care.
Pharmacies provide abortion pills with a written prescription from a doctor
Private hospitals provide safe abortion services through Obstetricians and Gynecologist
What is the cost of an abortion in Kenya?
Safe methods of terminating an early pregnancy or procuring a safe abortions at clinics cost’s between Ksh12000 ($120) and Ksh 20,000 ($200)
What are the legal and safe drugs available in Kenya?
- mifepristone (Cytotec and Misotrol)
- mife-misoprostol (Mifeprex)
Can I buy abortion pills at a pharmacy in Kenya?
Abortion pills can be bought at the pharmacy but can only be issued following a professional doctor’s prescription.
Who can I contact for additional abortion information or support in Kenya?
- Aunty Jane hotline: provides on sexual and reproductive health information and abortion online and through a hotline that is confidential
- Marie Stopes Kenya: providing a wide range of high quality, affordable and client- centered reproductive services to men, women and young people in collaboration with the Government of Kenya.
- Nimechanuka: is an online campaign that believes information is power and provides young people with sexual and reproduction health information
- Safe abortion in Kenya: facebook page that provides information concerning safe abortion, and the management of abortion-related complications
- Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET): KMET is an indigenous Kisumu-based nongovernmental organization established to promote quality health and education services across Kenya.
- Reproductive Health Services
Afya Centre First Floor, Tom Mboya Street.
P.O. Box 20322-00200
Tel No. 0722830008
Contact: Dr. John Nyamu -0722525416
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- 1. “Needs assessment on safe abortion advocacy”. Kenya Country Report, KIT Royal Tropical institute, International Federation of Gynaecology And Obstetrics (FIGO). https://www.figo.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Kenya%20Country%20Report%20Final.pdf
- 2. “Availability, Use and Quality of Care for Medical Abortion Services In Private Facilities In Kenya.” The Population Council, Marie Stopes Kenya, Reproductive Health Network. https://www.popcouncil.org/uploads/pdfs/2015STEPUP_MA-PrivateFacilitiesKenya.pdf
- 3. “Dangerously cheap: Kenya’s illegal abortions.” Aljazeera.com. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/10/dangerously-cheap-kenya-illegal-abortions-161027075859609.html