By Gatonye Gathura
The proposed law has managed to protect the right to abortion without mentioning the word even once in the text of the hefty document.
Words which in recent years have been known to elicit negative public reactions such as sex education, adolescent sex, condoms or contraceptives for children have been expunged from the document.
For example while earlier version of the bill talked of adolescents rights to reproductive health products and services the proposed law introduces same but in a subtle language.
“Every man or woman of reproductive age has the right to be informed about and to have access to reproductive health services,” says the Bill.
Though the Bill does not quantify what will be considered to be the reproductive age the World Health Organization puts it at between 15 and 44.
In February, there was an effort, which has since fizzled out, to have the National Assembly lower the age of sexual consent for girls from 18 to 16.
The Catholic Church, a strong opponent of abortion has been shadowing the Bill making process for any evidence the law would be promoting ‘abortion on demand.’
One of this was the definition of what is health. The Church has been demanding this largely be strictly restricted to health as the absence of disease or injury with the other side lobbying for a wider definition. The latter seems to have won.
Heath, the bill says refers to the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease or injury.
Another loss for anti-abortionists is the broad definition of the kind of health professional to be authorized to carry out an abortion.
The church has demanded this be restricted to higher cadre of health professionals but the Bill says nurses, clinical officers and midwives are legally competent to provide abortion services.
Also importantly the Bill moves to cure the problem of patients being denied emergency services because they cannot afford to pay.
The proposed law reiterates that no person should be denied emergency services at any health facility in the country. Any medical institution failing to provide such services, the Bill says will be in breach of the law and could face a fine of about Sh 3 million.
However the Bill moves further to propose the establishment of an emergency medical treatment fund which would help offset bills accruing from such services.