What you need to know:
Many assume the reason a woman aborts is because she doesn’t want to keep the pregnancy.
However, few go deeper to really understand and ask why.
There are many things that happen between finding out about a pregnancy and making the choice to abort.
According to a study done by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) together with The Population Council, more than 40 per cent of pregnancies in Kenya are unintended – either mistimed or unwanted. This high number of such pregnancies is due to unmet contraceptive needs, or contraceptive failure. In a report by the Centre for Reproductive Rights, approximately 14 per cent of these pregnancies end in abortions, done by unskilled people who don’t meet minimal medical standards. These result in about 2,600 deaths.
Abortion. The very mention of the word is followed in quick succession by pin-drop silence and, by looking at the world’s reaction to it, one is able to see how divisive the rhetoric is. Either way, the statistics show Kenya cannot continue sweeping the issue under the rug. Many assume the reason a woman aborts is because she doesn’t want to keep the pregnancy. However, few go deeper to really understand and ask why. There are many things that happen between finding out about a pregnancy and making the choice to abort. Women and girls abort for various reasons. One, poverty and economic reason. They feel pregnancies are a disruption to their education, might inhibit their career advancement or they may not be financially ready to care for a child and the father has refused to provide financial support. Two, social reason. To avoid the stigma that comes with being too young, unwed and pregnant; limit family sizes or in the case of unfaithfulness, eliminate any evidence of secret dalliances. Three, relationship problems in the marriage or denial of the pregnancy by the men involved. Four, risk to maternal health of the woman and, last, foetal defect. Regardless of the reasons, if we are to be honest, abortion is about choosing one life over another.
One is either choosing to preserve the life of the woman over the foetus’ or the foetus’ over the woman’s. When an incident occurs, various voices come forth to give their opinion. Let’s sample a few. Under Article 29(4) of the Constitution, induced abortions are illegal unless a woman’s life or health is in danger or in the case of emergencies. The religious leaders are pro-life, directing the community to instead focus on curbing illicit sexual behaviour. On the civil society front, organisations have bravely put up a spirited fight to compel the government to restore guidelines for “safe” abortions. But, one core group remains rather quiet on this matter: The men. What is their stand on abortion? Do they feel isolated? Are they there for good vibes only? Is abortion a relief? A study conducted in a local referral hospital found women were pushed to abortion by men in their lives “by declining financial or social responsibilities” or demanding they have one.
Being that the society is, unfortunately, male-dominated, shouldn’t men participate in abating unintended pregnancies? Men should participate in reproductive and sexual health issues – both theirs and their partners.
The burden of contraception and pregnancy has been placed, by and large, on women. Ease this burden by using male contraceptives (which are readily available and inexpensive unlike women’s), properly and faithfully. They should also own the seed they plant, and be on the forefront of shaming their “boyz” who are deadbeat dads. Shirking responsibilities should be a capital offence.
Men, if a woman, on account of your lack of support aborts, and experiences terminal consequences or dies, that blood taints your hands. Men should make women’s positions at work secure. Pregnancy shouldn’t be grounds to deny a woman employment or promotion. The pregnancy could be unintended. Men should also consider marrying women with children.
Whereas these suggestions sound radical, radical is what we need. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy, modern or forward-thinking, about wilful abortions. Men can contribute substantially to prevent them. Finally, an unintended pregnancy doesn’t mean the end of the world. If we all change this narrative, no woman will die under this scourge.
Ms Wanjohi is the founder of Mazingira Safi Initiative; [email protected]