The High Court of Kenya ruled Wednesday that abortions will remain illegal and unborn babies protected in the country.
The Daily Nation reports the court ruling involved a case where a rape victim died with her unborn baby after a botched abortion. The young woman’s mother sued to challenge the country’s pro-life laws, joined by the Centre for Reproductive Health and the Federation of Women Lawyers, according to the report.
However, the decision may not be a complete victory for unborn babies. While the justices did agree that abortions should remain illegal in most cases, they also reinstated national health guidelines that allow abortions when a medical professional believes the mother’s life or health is in danger, according to Citizen Digital. Government health leaders introduced the guidelines in 2012 but later withdrew them, the report states.
“It’s not the cause of pregnancy but effect of it that determines whether abortion is permitted. If a trained health practitioner finds that a pregnancy from rape or incest interferes with the mental, social or physical well-being of woman, abortion is allowed,” Justice George Odunga wrote, Devdiscourse reports.
“In regards to what should be termed as the health of mother, we rely on medical descriptions that state it is the social, mental and physical state. Therefore, abortion is permitted where the health of a mother is at risk as determined by a trained medical professional,” he continued.
The problem with health exceptions is that they tend to be interpreted broadly to allow abortions for basically any reason. Some abortion practitioners even may argue that pregnancy itself is a health risk. It is not clear from reports how widely the health exception could be applied in Kenya, whether just to victims of rape and incest or to all pregnant women.
Here’s more from Citizen Digital:
In a 2-hour judgement read by a five-judge bench, the court ordered the government to pay Ksh.3 million to a mother from Kisii County whose child died after procuring an abortion in 2014 following a sexual assault.
Judges Aggrey Muchelule, John Mativo, George Odunga, Lydia Achode and Mumbi Ngugi ruled the girl’s death was as a result of poor post-abortion care which was limited by the withdrawal of the 2012 guidelines.
The standard guidelines for reducing mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions was developed in 2012 to reduce maternal mortality in the country.
Abortions are illegal in Kenya and most other African countries.