Abortion survey shows Kenyans still have a conscience

The findings released last month revealed the majority do not want the procedure legalised in the country

Charles Kanjama, a lawyer and the chairman of KCPF

Three out of every 10 Kenyans are aware of someone in their neighbourhood who has procured an abortion, a new survey states.A further 15 per cent know where abortions can be procured in their locality while eight per cent know of a close family member who has had an abortion. 

The findings released on August 28 at Cardinal Otunga Plaza in Nairobi also said 91 per cent of Muslims and 84 per cent of Christians do not want abortion permitted or legalised in the country. 

The study was commissioned by the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF) and conducted by Ipsos, the third largest market research company in the world. 

It found that over 90 per cent of the population felt that parents had the primary responsibility for carrying out sex education with their children as opposed to teachers, religious leaders, government, extended family, professional counsellors, media and teenagers themselves.

 In total, 85 per cent of the respondents were against abortion in all instances while 90 per cent were against the legalisation of homosexual behaviour in the country. Those who opposed abortion said it was ungodly, immoral, amounted to murder, endangered the life of the mother, could lead to infertility and was anti-population growth. 

Supporters of the practice based their argument on the need to protect the life of the mother if the unborn child endangered it. They also said abortions helped to avoid unwanted pregnancies and that it was an individuals choice that should not be interfered with. 

 On homosexuality, 81 per cent of those opposed to it said contrary to popular arguments that a person may be born with such a tendency, the behaviour was actually something people learnt as they grew up. Another 79 per cent want the government to prosecute homosexuals who speak openly about their sexual activities.

The findings also revealed the hard work leading voices championing for amendments to the Constitution has when it comes to convincing the populace. Only 37 per cent of the respondents wanted the Constitution reviewed even as Kenyans eagerly await the release of the Building Bridges Initiative report that may propose numerous changes, especially concerning the structure of the Executive arm of government.

The survey found more than a third of those who support calls for constitutional reforms would want laws regarding the implementation of devolution and distribution of resources changed. Only 30 per cent vouched for changes in leadership or government structure. 

Charles Kanjama, a lawyer and the chairman of KCPF, said the organisation commissioned the Kenyan chapter of Ipsos to carry out the nationwide survey to assess public perceptions on abortion, homosexuality, sex education, parenting and the current political push to amend the Constitution of Kenya.

 Some 2,050 respondents were sampled in the poll that was conducted between August 20 and 23. The respondents were aged 18 years and above living in urban and rural areas. Of the total sum, 1,741 said they did not support abortion; 118 supported it and 191 said they support abortion sometimes.

The KCPF Secretary General, Vincent Kimosop, said they sponsored the survey to coincide with the organisations 10th year since it came into existence.

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the African Population and Health Research Centre, there were 464,690 abortions procured in Kenya, the majority of which were done in unsafe conditions. As a result, some 120,000 women sought medical treatment for complications from abortions.

This loosely translates to 1,274 abortions per day and 53 every hour, with Rift Valley, and Western and Nyanza regions combined accounting for 64 and 63 incidences per 1,000 cases respectively.

Out of those who procured the abortions, 64.4 per cent were married women or women living with their partners; 27.8 per cent had never been married and 7.5 per cent were divorced.

However, Wahome Ngare, a consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist and surgeon, said it was not all doom and gloom for pro-lifers.We shouldn’t take the statistics generally because three out of 10 Kenyans, for example, might know the same abortion case in one community or village. The poll didn’t talk about the number of cases in a community, he said. 

And although abortion is happening in the country, the good news for voices of reason, he added, is that the majority of Kenyans are against it.

Thank God we’ve not reached that point where a large proportion of people say it is okay. It means the country has not lost its conscience. It is one thing to know what you are doing is wrong and you’re willing to change, and another when your conscience is shipwrecked and you are willing to go to any extent to kill a pre-born baby, he said.

Ngare, who is also the KCPF Life Committee Convener, said the survey results showed that Christians and opponents of abortion still have work to do. He added that the biggest crisis in society today is misinformation.

When you ask if abortion is wrong, many people might not appreciate the gravity of the matter. But when you mention the killing of pre-born babies, that becomes unpalatable. We should call a spade a spade and not try to sugar-coat a vice.”

He said the survey carried good news for parents since the majority of respondents said sex education should be taught by them.  

For now our focus is on the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2019 that was shelved by the Senate in July to allow for public participation. I believe most issues to do with abortion and sex education will be addressed here, he said.