Kenyan campaigners root for safe abortion to contain maternal deaths

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Enactment of policies and legislation that encourage safe termination of pregnancies is key to containing rising toll of maternal deaths in Kenya’s resource constrained settings, campaigners said on Saturday.

The advocates affiliated with Marie Stopes Kenya which is a leading provider of family planning and reproductive health services, said that regulated and medically sound abortion could reduce the number of maternal deaths in the country.

“Kenya loses an estimated seven women daily due to unsafe abortion and this number could be reduced if affordable and safe methods of terminating pregnancies were available to all income groups,” said Chris Wainaina, the Director in charge of marketing at Maries Stopes Kenya.

He noted that the Kenyan constitution supports a surgical procedure to remove a fetus to victims of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.

“We need to start a conversation on the best way to end controversies around abortion in a country where 40 to 50 percent of maternal deaths are linked to unsafe termination of pregnancies that were not planned in the first place,” Wainaina said.

A survey conducted recently by Marie Stopes Kenya indicated that girls aged 10 to 19 years reported the highest prevalence of complications arising from unsafe abortion followed by divorced women.

The survey revealed that an estimated 21,000 women are admitted to Kenya’s public health facilities annually to seek treatment for complications arising from unsafe or induced abortion.

Edita Adhiambo, a reproductive health rights campaigner based in Nairobi’s Kibera Slums, said that access to safe abortion should be embedded in maternal and infant health policies.

“Women in poor neighborhoods are dying at a high rate from complications linked to unsafe abortion yet they could have survived if the procedure was carried out by a professional,” said Adhiambo.

Stephanie Wanjiru, a gender rights campaigner, said that access to modern contraceptives and safe abortion services is key to boost health of economically deprived women and girls.

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