In a country like Kenya where reproductive and sexual rights are not emphasized not to mention the high maternal an infant mortality rates, the constitutional debate on when ‘human life’ begins is actually missing the mark on whether abortion should be constitutionally legalized or not. Take for example the argument made by the doctors that, after conception embryos/ fetuses do not in all cases lead to a human being. The question that should be asked these doctors is whether under any circumstances some of these “masses of cells” ever develop into ‘aliens, goats, or even birds’.
A while ago, a friend experienced a condition whereby the baby or shall I say I say ‘the embryo” stopped developing at 6weeeks. The doctor’s report indicated the cause to be “EMBRYO DEMISE”. What this meant was that the embryo had died or it had stopped to exist. ‘When is something said to be in existence’ or ‘what are the characteristics of life’. My son in class four will tell you that a living thing feeds, excretes waste and grows. Does the mass of cells/embryo after conception posses all of these characteristics? I leave this for the doctors to clarify to the Kenyan people who may only be equip with school science and biology knowledge and not with the nitty-gritty details of medicine.
I once again say that this constitutional debate is missing the point, because our learned friends argue the illegality of abortion is tantamount to denying a woman, the right to decide on whether she carries the pregnancy to term or not. They say that the woman has been reduced to an object that is meant to sustain the life of the unborn child. The umbrella under which this argument is made is the women who are raped and girls who are defiled. I really feel for these women as the pain they have to under go cannot even begin to be fully comprehended by someone who has not gone through the same.
The debate therefore, should not be on when life begins but how to ensure that the law is fair to these women. The current abortion law in Kenya should rather be expanded to include all aspects of a woman’s/ a mother’s health. this approach will not get the women the justice and fairness these women deserve.
The World Health Organization defines health to complete physical, mental/ emotional and social well being and not merely the absence of disease. A woman who has been raped cannot be emotionally/mentally and socially healthy after the ordeal.
The debate therefore should be focusing on the reproductive and sexual rights of women and girls rather than abortion. Reproductive health rights rests on:
-Couples’ and individuals’ (read women) right to decide freely and responsively the number, spacing and timing of their children,
-the right to have the information to do so, and
-the right to attain the highest standards to achieve optimum reproductive health.
Sexuality and sexual health relates to the embrace of sexual health rights that include
-the right to highest standards of health with relation to sex and reproduction
-the right to sex education and information,
-the right to seek, receive and impart the right information in relation to sexual health and
-the right to respect for bodily integrity
Equipped with benefits derived from these rights, women will competently be able to exercise the remaining rights;
-To choice of partner,
-to decide whether to be sexually active or not,
-to conceptual marriage and sexual relationship
-whether or not to have children and
-the right to pursue a satisfying and pleasurable sexual life.
Those that argue for blanket legalization of abortion should therefore, first argue for the entrenchment of sexual and reproductive heath rights of all Kenyans particularly the youth, (both girls and boy) and women.
If beginning of life debate wins the day, women will at least be able to make informed decisions on whether to have the abortion or not.