Ideology hurting women and families
The Nation (Kenya)-Arthur Okwemba
June 03, 2004
Seven clinics supporting safe abortion and offering post-abortion care
have closed down following withdrawal of funding by the US government.
The Bush administration has stopped funding totalling about Sh76 million
(one million US dollars) to the Family Planning Association of Kenya and
Marie Stopes International-Kenya for their support to family planning
services that support the rights of the woman to procure safe abortion
and receive post-abortion care services.
An estimated total of 1,560 women, men and children who received
services everyday from three clinics- one each in Embu town, Kisii and
Eastleigh- operated by the association- can no longer get them after the
organisation was forced to shut down the clinics. Also affected are the
association's clinics which used to function as clinical training sites
for the Ministry of Health to train doctors and nurses on how to insert
Norplant and IUDs, perform sterilization procedures and Improve quality
of STI and HIV/Aids counselling. Because most of these clinics are
located among the poorest of the society in slums and rural areas,
populations that depended on them for other heavily subsidised health
services like immunization of the children, vitamin A supplements,
malaria treatment, Sexually Transmitted diseases and HIV/Aids, have been
adversely affected by the sweeping decision.
The Bush anti-abortion decision is in line with implementing the
unpopular 'Global Gag Rule' provisions instituted by his government
immediately he ascended to power. The rule prohibits United States Aid
for International Development (USAID) from funding NGOs or organisations
offering abortion or post-abortion care services.
Affected organisations were asked to sign and commit themselves to the
Gag Rule provisions if funding had to continue. At the same time, they
are expected to ask women intending to abort to give birth and then
give-up the child for adoption.
In contradiction, the number of unsafe abortions and maternal mortality
rates are said to have increased to around an estimated 800 a day since
the rule was introduced.
A study released recently to gauge the effects of the Gag Rule shows
that in Kisumu, more than 400 women who were attended to every day in
one of the Marie Stopes-Kenya clinics no longer receive family planning
and HIV/AIDS services. The association and Marie Stopes-Kenya are
categorical that they do not procure abortion since it is illegal in
Kenya. Instead, they insist, they offer post-abortion care services just
like what Kenyatta National Hospital does.
Conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., Pathfinder
International, Population Action, IPAS and EngenderHealth in four
countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia and Romania, the study, Access
Denied: US Restriction on International Family Planning, warns: "The
Global Gag Rule has eroded women's access to contraception and
reproductive health care. This can only lead to more, not fewer, unsafe
abortions and maternal deaths".
Leading sexual and reproductive health service providers like
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which fund
organisations like FPAK with funds received from the USAID, have not
been spared either. IPPF has been denied over $18 million given to it
annually by USAID because it supports safe abortion and post-abortion
care. But, IPPFAR governing council also refused to abide by the rule,
and warned organisations receiving its funding to expect them withdrawn
if they commit themselves to the Gag Rule provisions.
Since the Rule was instituted, USAID, which is the leading donor to
health programmes in the country, has stopped funding, sounding the
death knell on many organisations not toeing the line. Funding for
support of family and reproductive health programmes, mostly in
developing countries, has been cut by over $35 million, as result of the
Gag Rule, according to a source at USAID.
The irony though, is that some of the decisions the Bush Administration
has taken are taking countries in which the affected organisations
operate many steps behind in achieving the millennium development goals
supported by the same administration.
These goals include reducing maternal maternity by three quarters, child
mortality by two thirds, and promoting gender equality and empowerment
of women as well as combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Others are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by half, among the
eight countries are expected to fulfill by the year 2015. Safe
motherhood and abortion are captured in the goal on maternal mortality.
All of these are intertwined and interlinked in any sustainable
development model, with the success of one area having positive spin-off
effects on the others.
Yet uncontrolled population growth occasioned by failure to provide
family planning services results in population pressures that erodes the
environment, increases poverty and maternal mortality and puts the
family and the country into a vicious cycle of poverty and
Similarly, during the 1994 international Conference on Population and
Development held in Cairo, Egypt, the meeting came up with a
comprehensive plan of action (PoA) on issues ranging from safe
motherhood and abortion to reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable
development. Kenya is a signatory to this plan, meaning it has committed
itself to implementing the agreements reached.
Empowerment and improvement of the status of women, educating and
providing user-friendly and accessible sexual reproductive health
information services to adolescents, and easier access to
contraceptives, are some of the key plan of action's recommendations
Kenya and other stakeholders are expected to implement.
Ten years since the PoA was adopted, Kenya is one of the countries that
in the next three weeks is expected to table what it has done during the
June 23-25 Africa regional meeting marking the 10th anniversary of ICPD,
to be held in Nairobi.
The meeting, organised by IPPF-Africa region, African Population
Advisory Council, Centre for African family studies, WHP, Rainbo, and
Union for African Population studies, will assess the progress made so
far, the challenges and how to increase the momentum of implementing the
PoA. At this meeting, issues of safe motherhood and abortion, sexual and
reproductive rights, poverty and sustainable development, and youth
access to SRH information are to be discussed.
Recently, when the government submitted its report on what it has done
on these issues, it avoided discussing matters to do with abortion.
However, in the ICPD's plan of action, the same government is expected
to explain what it has done to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the
recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning
Analysts think the government does not want to take a strong and clear
position on the matter for fear of antagonising certain sections of the
population and development partners. This may include organisations like
USAID that oppose abortion services and other organisations which are
Source: PUSH Journal