After a three-day hearing, Kenya’s high court adjourned a case on safe abortion until September 18, with a verdict expected by the end of the year. The case will decide if the government is responsible for the death of a teenager from complications of a botched backstreet abortion, and could increase access to safe abortion for women throughout the nation.
The Kenyan ministry of health withdrew guidelines on safe abortion in 2010, and has since banned health workers from receiving training on abortion. FIDA Kenya and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging the ministry’s decision, saying that it is a violation of women’s rights. The government’s removal of guidelines and training on safe abortion, they argue, has led to an increase in illegal and often unqualified practitioners taking advantage of desperate women, who face serious risk of complication or even death.
The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, died last month after a botched backstreet abortion left her with serious injuries. JMM’s mother and a group of advocates then filed a case against the Kenyan government, claiming that it failed to offer her adequate post-abortion care. “If these people were trained or had the capacity to know how to attend to people who require post-abortion care we would not have had this delay; she would have been given antibiotics, she would have been attended to in a way that her health would not have to deteriorate that fast,” said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights.