The hearing of a case challenging move by the Ministry of Health to bar training on safe abortion starts on Thursday as two NGOs argue that the action is a violation of rights of women and health workers.
In 2013, the Ministry withdrew the ‘Standard and Guidelines’, which was followed by a memo directing health workers to stop attending trainings and workshops on safe abortion.
But Center for Reproductive Rights and FIDA-Kenya challenged the move arguing that the memo is arbitrary and without justification. The memo directed all health care workers not to participate in any training on safe abortion and use of Medabon.
The Ministry, through the Director of Medical Services warned the health workers that they will be prosecuted if they attended the trainings.
But the two NGOs argue that the Ministry actions violate the rights of both women and health workers under Kenya’s 2010 constitution and international law.
They argue that it is wrong for the Ministry to bar health workers from accessing medical information through trainings, develop skills in life-saving abortion care, and provide patients with accurate information. The NGOs argue that o protect women’s health and lives, it is essential that the Ministry of Health clarify when health workers can provide safe, legal abortion services.
The NGOs argue that the constitution clearly provides for grounds under which abortion is permitted. The grounds are contained under Article 26 (4) of the constitution. But the Ministry argued that abortion is illegal.
In a sworn statement, former Health Permanent Secretary Nicholas Muraguri said the guidelines were withdrawn because stakeholders could not agree. He said that the guidelines would be re-introduced once a consensus is reached. He said there was also confusion among stakeholders on the edition to be used. The case will be heard before five judges.