Kenya has lifted a ban on Marie Stopes carrying out abortions in the country after a review found it had not actively encouraged women and girls to have them, a move that will prevent many unsafe terminations.
Kenyan authorities had directed Marie Stopes to suspend abortions and post-abortion care on Nov. 14 after complaints a media campaign run by the charity promoted terminations – a charge it denied.
Abortions are not permitted in Kenya unless a woman’s life or health is in danger and emergency treatment is required, a rule campaigners say has led many women to resort to unsafe illegal terminations.
Marie Stopes said its media campaign was aimed at creating public awareness of Kenya’s high rates of unsafe abortion, and after an audit, Kenya’s health ministry said last week the group was “in total compliance” with the country’s laws.
Almost half a million abortions were conducted in Kenya in 2012 – mostly in backstreet clinics – with one in four women and girls suffering complications such as high fever, sepsis, shock and organ failure, said a February health ministry report.
An estimated 266 women die per 100,000 unsafe abortions in Kenya – higher than rates estimated in other east African nations, it added.
Marie Stopes – which has worked in Kenya for more than three decades and has 22 clinics across the east African nation – said it would continue to work closely with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, which implemented the ban.
“We are grateful to the Board for recognising this as a serious issue, and for their commitment to ensuring that women have the safe healthcare they so desperately need,” a spokeswoman said in emailed comments.
This is not the first time Marie Stopes – which works in 37 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America as well as the United States – has faced a suspension or closure over its abortion services.
Campaigners took to Twitter to protest Kenya’s ban on social media, saying it would drive many to makeshift clinics and put lives at risk.
“By mobilizing against the ban on abortion on social media, women made it clear that they will not sit idly by as the government attempts to roll back their rights and access to health care,” said Erin Williams from the U.S.-based charity International Women’s Health Coalition.
Nearly half of an estimated 56 million abortions conducted each year are unsafe, leading to the deaths of at least 22,800 women, a global report by the Guttmacher Institute said in March.
This article was written by Lin Taylor and edited by Claire Cozens for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.