Abortion: Who’s pushing the numbers?

Women in Kenya are blaming their men for increasing cases of abortion.

A group of women receiving post abortion care at two public hospitals say they were pushed to abort by the men in their lives.

In one extreme case, a female patient told researchers that even after adamantly saying no, her man had tricked her into an illegal and risky abortion.

After her refusal, the woman said her partner had suggested he show her some drugs she can use during the pregnancy and how to administer them.

“He injected me through a vein and told me it’s to improve appetite. After that I was unconscious and woke up while bleeding and the pregnancy gone,” explained the recovering woman.

She has since reported the ex-partner to the police, she told a team of medical researchers investigating between man and woman who made the decision to abort.

In the study carried out at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital and Kisumu East District Hospital, majority of the recovering women said men were the cause for their abortions.


The women aged 19–32 years were receiving medical care at the two facilities following complications from induced abortions.


Men, the study shows either demanded that the women abort, decided it was the best option or refused to take responsibility for the pregnancy and its outcome.

“The principal decision maker was often the male partner who pressed for the termination of the pregnancy indirectly by declining his financial or social responsibilities or directly by demanding termination,” says the study.

In many cases, the study says men controlled decision-making by arranging an unsafe abortion without the woman’s consent.

The study published on Wednesday in the journal Reproductive Health was carried out by a team from the University of Nairobi and Karolinska Institute of Sweden.

Some of the women however said they did not inform their partners of the pregnancy to avoid trust related disagreements.

The new findings come weeks after another study among youth in Nairobi and Western Kenya showed up to a third of current relationships to involve multiple partners.

“Our data shows growing mistrust in most of these relationships,” says Kinyanjui Murigi of DNA Testing Services in Nairobi.

Murigi, whose firm was the first private paternity testing service centre in Kenya, says almost 80 per cent of the requests they get today show ‘wrong biological dad.’

“Seventy six per cent of paternity test we are doing now shows the applying father is not the biological dad,” says Murigi.

This is compared to about 50 per cent 10 years ago. Since then today Kenya has about 20 DNA testing centers with paternity testing cited as the most demanded service.

Recent events however show paternity mistrust to go beyond the confines of couple relationships.

For example, following a 2016 road accident in Naivasha which left 43 bodies charred beyond recognition, DNA samples from fathers were rejected.

Explaining the rejection, chief government pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor said the men could be raising non-biological children.

“Bitten more than once men may be playing safe,” says Dr Sammy Baya a sex communication expert.

But men, Dr Baya says are part of the problem and can’t just cry ‘cheated’ and shrug off the mess.

“Any man adventurers enough to make a life should be bold to stand up to attendant responsibilities,” says Dr Baya.

“We just can’t afford it,” says Stephen Mwema who runs a church youth group in Donholm, Nairobi.

“I know almost all our 38 members are in some kind of sexual partnerships but most will say are not financially ready to settle down,” says Mwema.

Financial inability to raise a child, social pressure associated with mistimed pregnancy and partner disagreement in that order were the cited reasons for terminating pregnancy in the new study.

“Lack of financial stability or partner support was described by most women as driving factors for the decision to terminate the pregnancy,” wrote the authors.

Contested figures estimate about half a million (464,000) induced abortions occur in Kenya annually, the highest by far in sub-Saharan Africa.

These figures were generated in 2012 by the US funded Africa Population and Health Research Centre and quickly adopted by the Ministry of Health.

“The numbers are fake,” Dr Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor’s Association told the High Court in July.

Dr Ngare was testifying in a case where Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida-Kenya) and the Centre for Reproductive Rights want the government compelled to allow guidelines for safe abortions.

The gynecologist argued that the statistics on abortion in Kenya had been exaggerated and were no more than 140,000 annually.

“Genuine efforts to deal with abortions must first address the social economic problems facing families and young people without legalizing a problem,” says Dr Ngare.

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