A crash course in changing the world.
On April 08, 2010 the WomenWatch news feed posted a story on the UN-led campaign to provide affordable health care for Indian women in a bid to improve access to maternal and child health services. This reminded me of a post I wrote on international women’s day this year, in memory of women lost during child birth an issue that is near and dear to my heart.
Every minute somewhere in the world a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth. In my country Kenya, 22 women die each day from pregnancy related complications - 80% of these deaths are preventable. Official statistics show that 30 to 50% of all maternal deaths in Kenya are directly attributed to unsafe abortion. Abortion is illegal in Kenya and only allowed when a woman's life is in danger. Despite this about 300,000 terminations take place in Kenya each year with an estimated 20,000 women and girls being admitted with abortion-related complications in the hospital.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) nearly 42 million women faced with an unintended pregnancy have an abortion each year 20 million of which are unsafe abortions. What is an unsafe abortion? These are numerous and include:
There are many reasons for the prevalence of abortion in Kenya. Pregnancy out of wedlock is scorned, with many girls ousted from school and even from home once it is obvious that they are pregnant. Because abortion remains shrouded in secrecy it is difficulty to initiate positive action. Funding policies by some donor agencies restricts provision of funds to organisations that provide abortions, lobby for them or in any way facilitate them further silencing activism.
Is legalizing abortion the answer? Is the pro-choice argument a women’s reproductive health right issue or a human rights issue? Do we make contraception more available to girls and women to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies? How do we reconcile possible solutions with Kenyan law, cultural and religious beliefs? Please share your views and let us break the silence and reduce maternal mortality today.