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Feminist News


March-08-02

Gag Rule Puts Family Planning Under Fire in Kenya

The Kenya Family Planning Association operates 14 health clinics in Kenya, giving low-income women family planning options as well as breast cancer screening and annual pap smears. For many, the clinics are the only means through which they can afford reproductive healthcare, but now, many of the clinics are in danger of closing. Last year, President Bush reinstated the global gag rule, a U.S. policy that prevents clinics receiving U.S. funds from providing, counseling, or promoting abortion even if these activities are funded with separate monies. Although abortion is banned in Kenya, the Family Planning Association, a part of International Planned Parenthood Federation, supports access to abortion services. Consequently, their funding has been cut by 20 percent, and they may have to close 8 of their 14 clinics.

Marie Stopes International has already closed 2 of its clinics in Kenya. Its head of clinical services lamented, Without family planning, you have unwanted pregnancies. She continued, Some mothers end up doing abortion in the backstreets because they do not have any alternative. The methods include coat hangers, bicycle spokes, tree branches, knitting needles, overdoses of malaria pills, and herbal concoctions. Women suffering from complications of botched illegal abortions often end up at the public hospital in Nairobi. Some of them, however, see Dr. Solomon Orero, a private gynecologist with Kisumu Medical and Educational Trust.

Dr. Orero is a staunch pro-choice supporter who travels the country teaching practitioners how to perform abortions, so they may complete botched procedures. Despite the law, Dr. Orero feels a moral obligation to do his work. If you could only have seen what Ive seen! he says. One-third of maternal deaths in Kenya are a result of botched illegal abortions. Often the victims are young. Approximately 60 percent of women treated for complications following botched procedures are under the age of 24.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.

Media Resources: Center for Reproductive Law and Policy; BBC, 2/23/02; New York Times, 2/17/02