When Church laws allow for abortion

What you need to know:

  • Clerics in the ‘No’ camp have clear guidelines on how to end pregnancy

Most of the churches leading opposition to the new constitution on the grounds that it allows abortion have rules allowing the procedure where the life of the mother is in danger.

A survey by the Nation established that the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and the Seventh Day Adventists in their rules all make allowance for abortion on medical grounds.

Although not specific on allowing abortion, the Catholic Church has rules allowing for “all necessary treatment” to save the life of the mother — provided the procedure is conducted by a trained doctor or doctors.

In an interview with the Nation, Bishop Maurice Crowley of the Catholic Diocese of Kitale said that a pregnant woman is entitled to receive all necessary treatment if her life is in danger.

While he emphasises that Canon Law is clear against abortion, Bishop Crowley said: “Every effort should be made to save the life of the child also.

This medical care should be undertaken by a doctor or doctors who have the necessary training not just a ‘trained health professional’ though unfortunately not all areas of the country have the proper doctors.”

Canon 1398 of the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law reads: “A person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

Broken ranks

Latae sententiae” means a judgment or sentence, which has already been brought, in other words, a type of excommunication, which is automatic and does not need a future additional judgment from someone in authority.

Segemik parish priest Ambrose Kimutai agrees that the Catholic church allows abortion when the life of mother or child is endangered.

Fr Kimutai, who has broken ranks to support the proposed law, said the church remained very strict against abortion done for birth control or other reasons not related to life-threatening situations.

While Canon Law provides excommunication for anyone who participates in abortion, he said, “abortion is allowed under the moral teachings of the church when the life of the mother or child is in danger.”

The priest, who was among the agitators for the second liberation, said what the church feared was the likelihood of abuse given the phrasing of the abortion clause.

“What the churches really fear is the open manner in which the subject was treated. It seems it would be open for manipulation.”

East African Union SDA Church President Paul Muasya says his church is not dogmatic against abortion where a pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.

“The SDA Church does not support abortion, but when health of the mother is in danger then a window should be left for the doctors. That is our stand,” Mr Muasya said.

Abortion, according to SDA, is never an action of little moral consequence, the church’s guidelines say, prenatal life must not be thoughtlessly destroyed.

The guidelines that were approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council session in October 12, 1992 forbid abortion for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or convenience.

Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala is categorical that his Church cannot support abortion.

“We all have said that God values life and life begins at conception. That is a principle and we all seem to agree on that aspect,” he said last week as the church officially joined the ‘No’ campaign.

However, the ACK mother church, the Church of England, has provisions allowing termination if pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.

Contacted by the Nation, PCEA moderator David Gathanju insisted they do not allow abortion. But the PCEA Practice and Procedure manual makes allowance for medical advice.

Reading from it Rev Gathanju quoted: “Abortion shall remain illegal except on strict medical advice”.

Additional reporting by Benedict Tirop