Kenya: Court Declares Withdrawal of Medical Information and Curriculum for Safe Abortions Illegal.

Civic Space 3 min read
ARTICLE 19

For Immediate Release:  14th June 2019

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the judgment by the High Court of Kenya that  it was illegal for the Director of Medical Services to withdraw information about safe abortions. On June 12, the Court ruled that withdrawing the 2012  Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya had violated both the right to comprehensive and accurate health information and the right to the highest attainable standard of health for women and girls.

In 2018, an adolescent known only as JMM died in after suffering complications from an unsafe abortion. In 2018, the Federation of Women Lawyers filed a petition on her behalf, claiming that authorities failed to provide her with proper post-abortion care.

ARTICLE 19 was an interested party in the case, and raised key concerns on the lack of access to critical medical information by health workers as well as for women and girls.

Sandra Musoga, Senior Programme Officer with ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa  said “Women have a fundamental human right to information which relates to their sexual and reproductive rights. Denying health workers access to critical medical information has dangerous implications for the health and wellbeing of women and girls in Kenya.

“We welcome the Court’s judgment that this was both illegal and discriminatory. And we hope that the Ministry will now reinstate the standards and guidelines with immediate effect.”

In September 2012, the Ministry of Medical Services published the “Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya.”    However, in December 2013, the Director of Medical Services withdrew the Standards and Guidelines without explanation or the involvement of the stakeholders who had participated in its development. This was followed by a memo in February 2014 suspending the training of health workers on safe abortion care or the use of the drug Medabon for medical abortion.  The Ministry threatened health providers with dire legal and professional consequences if they participated in any abortion training.

The five-judge bench noted in its judgment that the withdrawal of standards and guidelines on abortion violated the rights to professional information, consumer protection and scientific progress. It also violated the right of women and girls to access information and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which amounted to discrimination.

The court further stated that since the Guidelines and the Training Curriculum are policy documents that had been developed through public participation, there should have been a similar procedure around their withdrawal.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

For more media interviews please contact: Sandra Musoga, Senior Programme Officer, Access to Information, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Email: [email protected] or call on +254 20 3862230/1/2