Abortion Laws in Kenya
Abortion is legal in Kenya if it is in accordance with chapter 26(4) of the Kenyan constitution (2010).Abortion pills can be purchased in a Kenyan chemist if one has a prescription and surgical abortions are available in hospitals. Abortion pills generally cost between Ksh. 800 to Ksh. 3000.
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 or if permitted by any other written law.i
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 Organization (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."ii
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.iii
On 6th/12/2019, the Kenyan high court made a landmark ruling that demanded a reinstatement of the guidelines by the ministry of health. The court also reiterated that abortion was only permitted under the conditions stated in Article 26(4) of the constitution and made a declaration that abortion is permitted for victims of sexual violence.iv
What are the different abortion services available in Kenya?
Kenya provides both medical and surgical abortion services. For medical abortion (MA), a combination of two drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprostol is used. Surgical procedures that are available are Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) and Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)v
- Medical abortion is allowed for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy
Who can perform abortion services?
In Kenya a legal abortion can be performed by:
- Clinical officer trained in provision of abortion services
Where can I go for legal 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 a safe abortion in Kenya?
The price of a safe abortion in Kenya depends on the type as well as the provider. Abortion with pills can cost between Ksh. 3,000 to Ksh. 10,000 while surgical abortion can cost between Ksh.5,000 to Ksh. 20,000.
Which abortion pills are available in Kenya?
There are two types of abortion pills available in Kenya.
- A combination of Misoprostol and Mifepristone which is available under the brand names Ma kare, Medabon and Mariprist
- Misoprostol alone is available under the brand names, Miso Kare, Cytotec.
Mifepristone is a drug that blocks a hormone called progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Ma Kare is a brand name for a drug that combines both misoprostol and mifepristone Misoprostol can be used after mifepristone to encourage a complete medical abortion. Miso Kare is a type of pill that contains only Misoprostol. We have more information on misoprostol and mifepristone usage here https://www.howtouseabortionpill.org/howto/
Where can I buy abortion pills in Kenya?
Misoprostol (Cytotec) and/or the combination of Misoprostol and Mifepristone (Medabon) can be bought from pharmacies in Kenya; however, an accompanying prescription may be required. Prices will vary between pharmacies.
Note: Most pharmacists that sell the pills do not often provide proper instructions on eligibility, dosage and usage for a medical abortion. Please refer to the following page on our website for comprehensive instructions on how to use the abortion pill: https://www.howtouseabortionpill.org/howto/
What do the abortion pills look like in Kenya?
Below are the most common brand name for abortion pills in Kenya.
This what the Ma-kare abortion pills look like
This what the Miso-kare abortion pills look like
This what cytotec abortion pills look like
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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- i “Constitution of Kenya.” Kenya Law http://kenyalaw.org:8181/exist/kenyalex/actview.xql?actid=Const2010
- ii “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
- iii “Petition 266 of 2015” Kenya Law http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/175490/
- iv “Kenya’s High Court issues a landmark ruling on access to safe abortion in a case against Ministry of Health” Center for reproductive rights. https://reproductiverights.org/press-room/kenyas-constitutional-court-issues-landmark-ruling-access-safe-abortion-case-against
- v “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