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Nakuru MCAs to debate tougher rules on abortion

Friday November 8 2019

Nakuru abortion

American doctor Switchenko Nora (left) and nurse Wilder Juma examining a baby at Margaret Kenyatta Mother Baby Wing at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital on September 4, 2019. Nakuru County has drafted a bill to set tough conditions for abortion. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRANCIS MUREITHI
By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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Pregnant women seeking to terminate their pregnancies in Nakuru County will be required to make a written consent, if the Nakuru County Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Bill 2019 is passed by the assembly.

The Bill targets women who visit health facilities in the region. However, most women seek services from private and illegal health facilities.

The Bill, which is expected to generate a lot of debate, was read for the second time in the House on November 6.

According to the Bill, termination of the pregnancy is subjected to tough conditions which must be approved by the trained and licensed medic.

RISK

“A pregnancy may be terminated if a trained and licensed healthcare provider, after consultation with the pregnant woman, is of the opinion that the pregnancy would pose a risk of injury to the woman’s life or health,” read Section 6(1) of the Bill.

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The Bill further states that the pregnancy may also be terminated if healthcare providers are satisfied that there exists a substantial risk to the foetus.

 “The pregnancy resulting from rape or defilement of a minor, as defined in the Sexual Offence Act may also be terminated,” reads the Bill.

The Bill states that a statement by a pregnant woman to the medical practitioner or verbal, written or audio statement from the practitioner on the report of the incident is adequate to prove that her pregnancy is as a result of sexual assault.

However, in all circumstances, a woman shall be guided, counselled and provided with all options available including adoption of the baby.

The termination of pregnancies will be done in selected health facilities across the county.

BACKSTREET ABORTIONS

 “The termination of the pregnancy shall only be carried out by a licensed healthcare provider in a facility authorised by the Medical and Dentist Practitioners’ Board, Clinical Officers Council, or the Nursing Council of Kenya or any other relevant authority responsible for licensing health facilities,” reads the Bill.

This Bill is seen as a first step in curtailing the increasing backstreet abortions in Nakuru County which has led to the death of many women.

According to Nakuru Level Five Medical Superintendent, Dr Joseph Mburu, at least 3,600 cases of abortion-related complications are received at the hospital annually. 

“There is a lot of interest in this Bill and my fear is that some people may be pushing for this Bill for their own interests,” said a Nakuru doctor.  

The Bill further reveals that in case of emergency, the patient’s next of kin or a senior health provider may give consent to terminate a pregnancy.

However, the Bill is silent which category of senior medics who can offer abortion services. 

SENIOR MEDICS

In case of a pregnant minor, medics shall advice the minor to consult with her parents, guardians or other persons with parental responsibility before the pregnancy is terminated.

“The best interest of the minor shall prevail and a written consent will be obtained from the parent or guardian or a healthcare provider or any such authority in emergency situations,” reads the Bill.

In the case of a mentally impaired person, the medic will first asses their capacity to appreciate the pregnancy. The best interest of the mentally impaired person shall prevail. However, a written consent should be obtained from the parent or guardian or medic.

The Bill says a health service provider who has a conscientious objection to the termination of pregnancy has a legal duty to provide timely referral of the pregnant woman to a hospital that can provide this service.

EMERGENCY

However, during an emergency, the medic has a legal and ethical duty to offer emergency care.

The Bill seeks to provide a framework for the protection, promotion and advancement of maternal and child health.

The Bill also aims at achieving a substantial reduction in maternal, neonatal and child mortality. It also seeks to ensure access to quality and comprehensive provision of health service to women and children.