Criminalising Abortion is Being Anti-Women

The debate around abortion in Kenya is usually emotive and sensitive. It is also divisive among many people. There is an incessant conflict between anti-abortion and pro-choice movements.

Abortion in Kenya is illegal and many abortions happen in secret. Quack doctors carry them out, usually in secret, in backstreet clinics using crude methods. The procedures are very dangerous and they endanger the lives of women and girls.

Reports prevail of death from these procedures, often due to excessive bleeding and other complications. If not handled properly, they can also damage vital organs leading to lifetime complications.

Research shows that nearly half a million abortions occur in Kenya every year. Most of these abortion procedures are unsafe and they largely affect teenage girls.

Yet, if abortion were legal, there is no doubt we could easily save lives. The Constitution and the Penal Code criminalize abortion in Kenya and make it punishable by law.

Abortion in Kenya under the new Constitution

The 2010 referendum campaigns on the new Constitution showed the divisive nature of the abortion debate. On one hand, the pro-life majority proposed stronger anti-abortion laws for inclusion in the Constitution. On the other hand, the pro-choice minority opposed this move.

The pro-life majority carried the day after the Constitution made abortion in Kenya illegal. However, there was a compromise. A pregnant woman or girl can have an abortion if, in the opinion of a trained health professional:

  • she needs emergency treatment; or
  • her life or health is in danger.

The pro-life movement comprised mainly of the religious and conservative folk. They voted against the constitution due to this clause, which they said, meant to legalize abortion. Abortion in Kenya carries a huge stigma. One cannot expect the pro-life majority to vote for or attempt to legalize abortion.

The half a million abortions that occur in Kenya every year are just a tip of the iceberg. Many more occur but the victims or their families and friends do not report the cases. Therefore, the government does not document these cases.

Yet, many are willing to continue regarding the women and girls seeking unsafe abortions as mere statistics. This neglect or apathy leads our women and girls to dangerous paths that put their lives at stake.

The Penal Code on abortion in Kenya

The Penal Code is a collection of various laws that prescribe punishment for certain offences. It expands the issue concerning abortion in the Constitution in Sections 158 to 160.

The Penal Code in Section 158 says the following about attempts to procure abortion:-

Any person who, with intent to procure miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious (harmful) thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.

Section 158 of the Penal Code

In section 159, the Penal Code stipulates the following on the intention to procure abortion:-

Any woman who, being with child, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

Section 159 of the Penal Code

Section 160 that deals with supplying drugs or instruments to procure abortion, says the following:-

Any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person anything whatever, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman whether she is or is not with child, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

Section 160 of the Penal Code

For seeking abortion services, our women and girls risk seven years in jail.

Pro-life people are hypocritical about the sanctity of life

Those who oppose abortion, for most of the time, pretend to care about the unborn. They do not oppose abortion in Kenya or in any other jurisdiction because they care about the unborn. Instead, they only put on a show. Like The Late Comedian George Carlin says in one of his stand up comedies,

Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favour of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own.

Comedian George Carlin

He also calls out the pro-life conservatives for their hypocrisy.

Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no daycare, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.

Comedian George Carlin

George Carlin is right about the conservative pro-life movement. People who oppose abortion often do so because of the common prevailing biases and selfish interests. These people pressure the pregnant woman or a girl to keep the fetus but take off once it is born. They leave the burden to clothe, feed, and raise the child on the woman or girl with no help thereafter.

The pregnant woman or girl should have the ultimate decision on what to do with her own body. She has the right to decide whether to keep the fetus or not. Conservative pro-lifers use psychological warfare to dupe pregnant women or girls into keeping the fetus. Like George Carlin says,

They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don’t like them. (Conservative prolifers) don’t like women. They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a broodmare for the state.

Comedian George Carlin

Is a fetus really human?

This question continues to draw heated debates. There is no concrete answer because what prevails is contradicting scientific, ethical, legal, personal, religious, and cultural opinions.

The pro-life movement largely says that “life begins at conception” and the unborn is a baby and is human. The pro-choice movement contradicts the same and largely says that the unborn cannot be human until it learns to function outside its host (the mother).

What shapes the progressive debate about abortion is often legal and scientific. The Roe vs. Wade landmark case that the USA Supreme Court made in 1973 leads the pack. The Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) which reviewed the former also counts as an influential example. The two laws gave prominence to the rights of women as human beings over the unborn.

When people talk about whether a fetus is human, the issue of fetal rights arises. Fetal rights refer to the rights of the unborn fetus from around eight weeks from conception to birth.

Laws in the USA and the United Kingdom have not historically recognized the fetus as a person with full rights. Rather, the laws uphold the rights of the mother and treat the fetus as part of her.

Despite that, sometimes the US law grants the fetus limited rights, especially as the pregnancy reaches fetal viability. At fetal viability, the fetus can survive outside the uterus.

George Carlin says,

But let’s get back to this abortion shit. Now, is a fetus a human being? This seems to be the central question. Well, if a fetus is a human being, how come the census doesn’t count them? If a fetus is a human being, how come when there’s a miscarriage they don’t have a funeral? If a fetus is a human being, how come people say “we have two children and one on the way” instead of saying “we have three children?” People say life begins at conception, I say life began about a billion years ago and it’s a continuous process…

Comedian George Carlin

Why the double standards on Abortion in Kenya?

Abortion rights grant women autonomy over their own bodies and being. The sad but ironical thing about many anti-abortion proponents is that they also oppose contraception.

Above that, those who oppose abortion in Kenya also oppose sex education for Kenyan children. Yet, ignorance about sex largely leads to illegal abortions in the first place among teenagers.

Those who oppose Abortion in Kenya reinforce the societal hatred against women. Radio host Renee Ngamau says the following about the double standards women endure,

They are wrong for taking care of children that men abandon. (Women) are wrong for not taking care of them. They are wrong for having unwanted babies. They are wrong for aborting them.

Renee Ngamau

George Carlin has the following to say to anti-abortion people,

So you know what I tell these anti-abortion people? I say “Hey. Hey. If you think a fetus is more important then a woman, try getting a fetus to wash the shit stains out of your underwear. For no pay and no pension.” I tell them “Think of abortion as term limits. That’s all it is. Biological term limits.

Comedian George Carlin

Nevertheless, why are men the majority of those who legislate against abortion? Isn’t this a good example of hyenas writing a proposal on how to protect goats?

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5 thoughts on “Criminalising Abortion is Being Anti-Women”

  1. Hi, not all pro-lifers are opposed to sex-ed and birth control because the role it plays in reducing “unplanned pregnancies” is undeniable. And yes, we do care about a baby after it’s born. There are pro-lifers out there who raise money to support women and young moms living in tough conditions. I think it is twisted to say abortion is pro-women because it destroys the whole concept of motherhood. It pushes an ideology that human life is disposable. It is not liberation if an innocent human being has to die for one to seek freedom. Instead of investing in safe abortions, we should be investing in sex-ed and all the other programmes that help women in crisis pregnancies and those that have already given birth. That’s how we help women: not by teaching them to despise motherhood.

    • How does abortion destroy the concept of motherhood? And how does it push an ideology that human life is disposable? Please elaborate on that. This brings us back to the argument of whether a fetus is human or not. I have provided my answer already in the article. Again, what you fail to grasp is the constant blockage of sex education by religious institutions, which of course tend to be prolife! How many attempts have been made to bring sex-ed in the curriculum with these religious institutions blocking them? Didn’t you read about the controversy surrounding the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2014? Lastly, don’t make the assumption that every woman is delighted by motherhood! There are many childfree and antinatalist women who do not delight in the thought of motherhood at all. My point remains that, as long as a fetus depends on the mother, it is not human and her rights supersede that of what she has inside her. Again, this debate is not just about women, but the men who also deny fatherhood (seeing that abortion is usually a last resort for many women).

      • Responding to you seems tough because it is clear to me you have already had a fixed ideology. A fetus is a human being; it has its own organs, DNA and other biological imperatives. The fetus is only a term used for a stage in development, a stage, without which we wouldn’t be existing.

        Well, abortion does send a message that human life is disposable at any inconvenience. Because whats human is human from the beginning and there is a lot of scientific evidence that proves that life begins at conception. Which means that the life of the baby has begun in their natural environment. Making abortion ok means we are killing children at our convenience which is mostly done because women are desperate because they don’t have a choice

        I am pro-life and I absolutely support sex ed and birth control for women who don’t want to get pregnant. My pro-life beliefs have very little to do with my faith. Abortion destroys the value of motherhood because so many of the women that get pregnant without having planned for it immediately think of abortion because they don’t believe you can be a mom and succeed at school or in your career which is False.

        Most women who abort feel pressured, they feel devastated and desperate. I’m 20 years old and I have young moms who are my friends either from school or elsewhere. They all have told me that they considered abortions because they were too young and because of stereotypes surrounding motherhood. While not all women want children, it is safe to say that a vast majority of women and girls who abort are a result of desperation.

        Not all women may want motherhood, that’s true but a baby’s life is equally as valuable as the other one even though one was planned and the other unplanned. My recommendation here would be; CPCs help pregnant women who would not want to keep their children locate a loving couple to adopt the baby and take care of it; which is the best decision one can make in that situation. Let the baby live, and let someone willing to love the baby take care of it.

        I have so much I’d like to share on a respectful note; Can I leave my e-mail so you can reach out to me with yours and we can discuss more?

  2. its just sad, we need to eat the humble pie and legalize it.


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