Kathy Kageni-Oganga was raped when she was 21 years old by a member of a bible study group that she was leading.
“It took me a whole 10 years to come to terms with what he had done to me and to forgive him,” Apostle Kageni-Oganga told the Sunday Nation.
However, one thing she was sure of after the dreadful violation was that she would never have an abortion even if the rape resulted in pregnancy.
“Abortion is murder and that is my stand. Even if I would have gotten pregnant from the sad act, I would have carried my baby to full term,” she says.
It is because of this experience and the difficult healing time that she says makes her feel great pain when people attack her for the strong anti-abortion stance. Some critics have claimed that she does not empathise with those seeking abortion.
Apostle Kageni-Oganga, who resigned from her job as the group human resources director at Radio Africa Group two years ago to concentrate on running the Sozo Church of God in Nairobi, is behind the anti-abortion billboards that have stirred controversy in recent weeks.
Pro-choice civil society groups recently criticised Apostle Kageni-Oganga and her followers for fear-mongering and pushing to deny many women the chance to access abortion services.
Some 11 non-governmental organisations issued a joint press statement, saying the billboards the religious leader and her church erected in Nairobi were fuelling stigma against those legally seeking abortion services, including women whose lives were at risk.
The NGOs argued that, even though the law was restrictive on circumstances that allow for a pregnancy to be terminated, it was still sometimes a prescribed medical procedure.
“Women and girls may seek abortion services when they have suffered a miscarriage, when they have an ectopic pregnancy, when the foetus cannot survive outside the mother’s womb and when they suffer sexual violence,” the statement read in part.
The debate in Kenya came just as Unplanned, a new movie revealing the operations of American abortion-rights organisation Planned Parenthood, hit the theatres.
The organisations involved in the petition are Centre for Reproductive Rights, Federation of Women Lawyers, Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health, Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa, Red Tape, Ipas-Health Access Rights, Right Here Right Now, Kelin, Xhale Africa, Women’s Link Worldwide, and Reproductive Health Network Kenya.
But Apostle Kageni-Oganga does not understand the hullabaloo her actions are creating.
“As far as I know, abortion is illegal. Was abortion legalised without our knowledge? Because last time I checked, it is considered murder by the State,” she says.
Detailing the birth of the billboards, she says she started talking about abortion and asked anyone who had done it to share in confidence with the church. She said the 3,000 responses that materialised out of that single request made her realise the extent of the crisis.
“All the women who shared with us were suffering and some were in depression. Some had had even eight abortions and they could remember every detail of the act,” she says.
Some of the women are still guilt-ridden, remembering how old the aborted children would have been while others with children with special needs feel that they were being punished for aborting, which is not the case.
The preacher discloses that even men reached out. “Some men said the women in their lives had aborted their children and that they were going through emotional trauma because of that,” she says.
Instead of abortion, Apostle Kageni-Oganga advises adoption where those unable to cater for their children’s needs are matched with those willing to adopt.
“Our church members are very supportive of this and we have a safe-house where these women and their new born babies live until they are able to stand on their own feet,” she says, adding that they spend about Sh90,000 towards this effort.
She wants more churches to take up this anti-abortion gospel. However, she is not overly surprised by the apparent lack of interest in the cause. “Some of the women who have reached out are married to pastors and other men of God who forced them to abort because they did not want more children,” she says.
She says the fear of having a baby is often misplaced.
“Many said the things they feared never happened and some got job promotions and so on when they thought they couldn’t afford a baby. A number are also sterile. They also said they were beaten at the clinics and insulted while having the abortions. They felt as if they were nothing.”
Apostle Kageni-Oganga, who is a mother of four – one son and three daughters - says she has taught her children the value of abstinence.
“I have three daughters and a son and I teach all of them abstinence till marriage. I have however made it clear if they ever turn from that and anyone gets pregnant they are not to kill that baby. I will take care of the baby myself if need be but we will not shed blood,” she says.