Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika unveiled a carefully worded Reproductive Health Bill 2019, knowing well its importance matched the sensitivity of the topic covered, going by similar laws that rattled some quarters and never saw the light of day.
The Bill has stirred the hornet’s nest due to a proposition perceived to legalise abortion.
Faith-based groups and pro-life activists have taken issue with Clause 26, which outlines instances in which abortion should be allowed under the supervision of a medical doctor.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, the lawyer turned legislator said she is confident it would sail through the Third Reading in the Parliament, once all stakeholders understood that it does not in any way seek to normalise underage sex, promote abortion nor corrupt societal morals as feared by some.
“The Reproductive Healthcare Bill does not normalise underage sex and In fact for the record am one of those who fought vigorously against any talk of lowering the age of consent.
“The Bill has 37 clauses and only one — clause 26 addresses termination of pregnancy, which by the way is already the law of the land under Article 26 of the Constitution that allows exceptions to the right to life when in the opinion of a trained health professional there is need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger,” Ms Kihika explained.
The document has other noble clauses that touch on family planning, reproductive health, assisted reproduction as well as safe motherhood.
“The Bill in Part VII Clause 32, addresses adolescent-friendly reproductive health services to include age-appropriate mentorship programmes, spiritual and moral guidance and counselling on abstinence, consequences of unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted infections, substance and drug abuse,” she said.
Clause 33 of the Bill requires that a healthcare provider must obtain parental consent to provide any of the adolescent-friendly reproductive health services.
Ms Kihika said those opposing the Bill seem to have not read it, read and misunderstood it or are just misadvised.
She told off those terming the law as an Abortion, saying it was in bad faith and an attempt at whipping negative public emotions to kill the Bill — the equivalent of giving a dog a bad name to kill it.
She said part of the challenge was confusion by some who gave their views during the public participation and expected that their views would be incorporated before the Bill passed the Second Reading
“However, their views are now being interrogated by the committee. Its report plus any other amendments will come to the house at the Committee of the Whole House stage for amendments to the Bill,” she said.
There are, however, those who support her bill as is, including a network of 25 human rights organisations.
Last Sunday, the network of CSOs led by Reproductive Health Network Kenya CEO Nelly Munyasia said sexual and reproductive health and rights are grounded in the Constitution specifically under Article 43 (1) (a), which provides for the right to health including reproductive health care and Article 26 (4), which provides for the right to access safe abortion services where the life or health of the pregnant woman is in danger or the event of an emergency.
Following the decision of the High Court in Constitutional Case No. 266 of 2015, women and girls who suffer sexual violence can also access safe abortion services if in the opinion of a trained health provider their life or health is in danger.
Ms Kihika said there were concerns on the way some clauses were drafted or some preferring some words to others.
These, she said, are being ironed out with stakeholders to attain a consensus.
“Some stakeholders are also happy that we have included programmes such as Linda Mama in the Bill (Clause 24) for the government to provide free antenatal care, delivery services and post-partum care in all health facilities in the county health system,” she said.