Restore guidelines on safe abortions, medic urges State

Health expert Prof Joseph Karanja in a Nairobi court on May 22, 2018. He is seeking to compel Health Ministry to restore guidelines on safe abortion. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Prof Joseph Karanja said Kenyatta National Hospital was handling at least 10 cases of botched abortions daily.
  • He said the guidelines were withdrawn following protests, especially from faith-based organisations.

A medic has urged the High Court to compel the government to reinstate the guidelines on safe abortion to manage the many complications arising from botched abortions.

Prof Joseph Karanja on Tuesday told the court that the guidelines, which were withdrawn by the ministry of Health after only one year, will help minimise cases of botched abortions. He said Kenyatta National Hospital was handling at least 10 cases of botched abortions daily.

“Abortion on demand is illegal and the guidelines will not in any way seek to promote it,” he said.

The obstetrician and gynaecologist said he was not aware of any cases of misuse of a drug known as Medabon, which was also withdrawn by the ministry.

He said the guidelines were withdrawn following protests, especially from faith-based organisations.

REDUCING MORBIDITY

Other than reinstating the standard and guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortions, Prof Karanja told the five judges that the government should be compelled to compensate a teenager who suffers from chronic health problems following an unsafe abortion.

He said the withdrawal was arbitrary and without justification because the Constitution clearly states that abortion on demand is illegal.

He said the withdrawal of guidelines by the ministry of Health in 2013 “scared” health practitioners and none of them would offer training on safe abortion.

Judges Aggrey Muchelule, Mumbi Ngugi, George Odunga, Lydia Achode and John Mativo are hearing the case brought up by FIDA-Kenya and Centre for Reproductive Rights, among other NGOs.

TRAINING BANNED

The NGOs state that health practitioners had been attending training on safe abortions and all was well until the abrupt withdrawal of the guidelines and a memo issued banning them from attending such workshops.

The memo directed all health care workers not to participate in any training on safe abortion and not to use Medabon. The ministry, through the Director of Medical Services, warned the health workers that they would be prosecuted if they attended the trainings.

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