Tough economic times pushing married women to abortion in Nairobi

By Gatonye Gathura

About a quarter of women procuring abortion in Nairobi are in a union; either married, living with a partner or cohabiting.

A study by Marie Stopes Kenya in one of its six clinics in Nairobi showed 22.4 percent of women seeking abortion services were in a union.

The study published last week (25th November 2019) in the journal Plos One reflects data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicating almost half of pregnancies among married women in Kenya are unintended.

Other recent studies in Nairobi have shown the main reason for induced abortions were socio-economic stress and a lack of support from partners.

“How do I raise another child in Nairobi? I can hardly feed the two I have,” said Nancy Chwele, married and running an M-Pesa shop in Donholm, Nairobi.

“And if a pregnancy came?” we ask. “Today women have choices,” said Nancy.

Nancy like many of the women in the current study did not know whether abortion is legal or not in Kenya but either way, she did not seem to care.

In the study, also involving the University of California, US, about half of the 353 study women said abortion is illegal in Kenya while one-fifth did not know if legal.

Abortion in Kenya is illegal unless the health of the mother is at risk though this is not a major determinant among pharmacies selling abortion pills.

This had been assessed in an earlier study by Marie Stopes and Population Council among 235 pharmacies in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu.

The biggest reason for pharmacy attendants denying clients abortion services, the study said was not health of the mother but their inability to pay.

Half of those denied abortion service was because they could not pay while only 20 percent were denied services due to health concerns.

“About a quarter of the pharmacy attendants said induced abortion can be provided on request, which is contrary to existing laws and regulations,” said the study.

The current study was assessing the experiences of women opting for either pills (medication) or surgical abortions at the Marie Stopes clinic.

The study found the highest number of aborting women are single, aged 20-24 and likely terminating their first pregnancy.

But still more than half of  the  clients  had earlier pregnancies including 23  with five or more previous pregnancies.

Almost half of the women had a college or university education with about 60 percent in paid employment. Only less than 10 percent had primary level or less education and majority were Christians.

While the majority said they did not have a problem getting money for transport to the facility most said it was difficult to get money for the abortion procedure.

Older women aged 35 or more, the study says were more likely to go for the surgical procedure compared to younger women, many who opted for the pill.

Coming to the core reason for the study, majority of the women said were happy with the abortion services at the Marie Stopes Clinic.

“Most women felt that they were treated with respect, facility staff cared about them, their information was kept confidential, they were given attention, there was enough staff, and they could trust the our staff,” concluded the study.

Despite this, the study says some improvements are needed to make clients’ experiences even more appealing.

“In our findings, only 61 percent of surgical clients and 57 percent of medication clients reported that providers called them by their name all the time as recommended.”

Only about three quarters in both options said they were consented to care. Again less than half of the medication clients said providers wanted to know how they were feeling.

But the bigger worry for many women was possible gossip if it leaked they had aborted. They were also worried that by aborting they may have disappointed their loved ones.

But Marie Stopes which had a strong representation at last month’s controversial population conference in Nairobi says, it has no apologies to make.

“As one of the world’s leading pro-choice organisations, we are unapologetic in our defense of a woman’s right to abortion, and we are proud to provide safe abortion services wherever the law permits it,” says Marie Stopes in its new ‘SmashAbortionStigma’ campaign.

About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
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