NAIROBI, Kenya -- The abortion issue in Kenya is raucous, rancorous and highly emotional and political, just like in the U.S., but there is one major difference: In Kenya, abortion rights have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.
I spent four weeks in Kenya this year working with the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance, a coalition of six Kenyan organizations committed to improving maternal health, to communicate better to key groups the nature of those changes. I talked to some 40 doctors, gynecologists, nurses, lawyers, government bureaucrats and technocrats and non-governmental workers and journalists. And a few taxi drivers.
The issue of abortion is so sensitive and taboo in Kenya that it almost derailed the constitution-making process. I discovered that even though the debate was heavily covered by the Kenyan media leading up to the August 2010 referendum, there's still a lot of misinformation on what exactly the Constitution changed, or didn't change -- even among health providers. Some think the Constitution legalized abortion on demand. Others think it changed nothing and abortion remains virtually illegal. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.