Kenya Constitution Revisions Weaken Protection for Women, Unborn on Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Kenya Constitution Revisions Weaken Protection for Women, Unborn on Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 3
, 2010

Nairobi, Kenya ( — The first draft of the newly-proposed Kenya Constitution protected the lives of unborn children from conception. However, changes made to the document have weakened those protections and are drawing opposition from pro-life advocates and Catholic Church leaders.

The Parliamentary Select Committee put together the first draft and it contained no mention of abortion, but the National Council of Churches and Catholic Church noted a phrase saying "everyone has a right to life" but not saying when life begins.

Language was added by the parliamentary committee saying human life begins at conception and it deleted language saying everyone has a right to health care and so-called reproductive services, which frequently is defined as abortion.

The language was enough for pro-life advocates to say they supported the document at the time.

Now, the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues has informed that the process for constitutional reform in Kenya is nearing final action in the Parliament and is likely to open the floodgates to abortion on demand if not amended.

The draft of a new constitution has been submitted by the Committee of Experts to the Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with oversight of the new constitution.

PNCI director Marie Smith told, “Regrettably, this final draft contains some of the most deceptive and dangerous language on abortion ever seen in a constitution."

"It presents constitutional protection for the unborn child by acknowledging in section 26 on Right to Life that ‘Every person has the right to life’ and that ‘The life of a person begins at conception,’" she explained. “However, the next statement completely reverses protection for the unborn by allowing abortion when in the ‘opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.’”

Smith continues, “The reversal of previous policy on abortion- which required the opinion of two medical doctors who agreed that abortion was necessary for the life of the mother— will likely open the door to abortion on demand if the broad US definition of health is used in Kenya.”

“The change in law and policy to allow non-physician abortion also opens the door to distribution by health care workers of the abortion-inducing drug misoprostol for use by women at home. This abortion method is increasingly used by NGOs despite its serious complications which include blood loss, the leading cause of maternal deaths in Africa," she said.

Kenya pro-life advocates are also concerned about the creation of the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission to “act as the principal organ of the State in ensuring compliance with obligations under treaties and conventions relating to human rights.”

Smith sees such actions as attempts to usurp the authority and power of the Parliament to set law and policy on abortion as determined by the population conference at Cairo.

According to Smith, “There is absolutely no universal right to abortion and abortion is not a human right. The world rejected such beliefs at Cairo and clearly stated so in the Program of Action.”

She says pro-abortion activists falsely interpret UN treaties and conventions to pressure countries to change their pro-life laws and Kenya could be pressured to do the same.

Smith says it is "up to the entire Kenyan Parliament to hold firm to authentic African values which revere the family and instill those principles in the constitution to ensure that unborn children and their mothers are protected from the violence of abortion.”

The Catholic Church has also been leading the fight to restore the pro-life language.

In a statement Capital News obtained, church officials said, “We are greatly saddened by the attempts by the CoE to go back on the PSC draft and deceptively reintroduce abortion. We insist that the Constitution must protect all human life which begins at conception and ends at natural death.”

Pro-life advocates, including medical and religious coalitions, are preparing to lobby the Parliament to amend the draft to ensure that it continues long-standing Kenyan respect for life and prohibition of abortion.

The draft is expected to be filed in Parliament by March 7 for further discussion, debate and vote before it is presented for a referendum in July.

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