Health ministry says it withdrew guidelines on safe abortion after noting unscrupulous medical practitioners and quacks were using them to terminate pregnancies on request.
Appearing before a five-judge bench at the High Court, Dr Joel Gondi, the Head of the Reproductive and Maternal Health Service Unit, said the ministry was forced to recall the standard guidelines because they were prone to abuse.
Dr Gondi said it was easier for women and girls to unlawfully terminate pregnancies.
The health expert said the guidelines opened an opportunity for quacks in backstreet clinics to terminate abortions on request.
He said the ministry withdrew the guidelines to allow for more consultations.
Besides the guidelines, Mr Gondi said the ministry also withdrew Medabon, a drug used to induce abortions because it was being sold over the counter.
“Your honour, the Ministry of Health is of the view that life begins at conception. It also affirms that every human being including the unborn child has a right to life,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr Gondi said the ministry’s intention is to ensure the right professionals are trained to protect the rights of mothers and unborn children.
Fida-Kenya and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, among other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) want the court to compel the ministry to reinstate the safe abortion guidelines, arguing withdrawal violates women’s and health workers’ rights.
They contend that the ministry erred by barring health workers from accessing medical information through trainings to develop skills in life-saving abortion care.
The NGOs argue that to protect women’s health and lives, the ministry should clarify when health workers can provide safe and legal abortion services.
Kenya Christian Professional Forum, Catholic Doctors Association and the Attorney General are opposed to the suit.