Lobby challenges ban on Marie Stopes abortion services

Comedians entertain guests during the opening of a Marie Stopes clinic in Nakuru on October 1, 2015. The hospital was barred from offering any abortion services in the country. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The protracted battle that saw reproductive services provider Marie Stopes barred from offering any abortion services in the country is now in court.

In case documents filed at the High Court Friday, a lobby challenged the decision by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board’s and the government to ban the clinic from offering any form of abortion services in all its 23 facilities.

Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa alongside activist Jackline Mary Karanja have sued the Attorney-General, the Health minister, the director of medical services, the medical board and the Kenya Film Classification Board.

They claim, the ban which took effect on November 14, was issued as a result of misinformation and is a deterrent for any woman or girl in Kenya from accessing safe abortion and post abortion care or lifesaving services lawfully.

They alleged that the ban communicates and chilling effects on health service providers who provide safe abortion hence needs to be suspended.

They also alleged that the decision has consequently blocked an underserved population and remote communities within the country comprising of women and girls from getting abortion services from Marie Stopes.

They also claimed that on November 20 the director of medical services went ahead to completely lock out Marie Stopes from providing any post abortion care or emergency situations, as a decision done without any complaint raised.

They argued that the decision was arbitrary as Marie Stopes is the only provider of life saving reproductive health services and that the ban violates right to life as well as health of women and girls in Kenya.

“Pending the hearing and determination of this case, a conservatory order be issued staying the ruling by the medical board,” said lawyers Martin Onyango and Sofia Rajab-Leteipan.

They added: “this case is brought in public interest and seeks orders which aim to protect right to life, health and to be denied emergency medical treatment of women and girls with regards to abortion, it will be rendered nugatory if it is not certified urgent and duly brought before a duty judge.”

As from August 22, Marie Stopes had started a nine week public awareness campaign with Radio Africa Group on dangers of unsafe abortion while directing people to seek its services.

But on September 11, KFCB’s chief executive officer Ezekiel Mutua said that the board had banned that advert.

They now want all the three bans-from the medical bar, government and KFCB permanently quashed.

They also want the sued parties barred from making any public utterances on abortion services unless the same is accurate scientifically as well as factually and a manner that does not perpetuate stigma.

They further want the health ministry compelled to fully disclose information on legal abortion services devoid of moral, religious bias.