Kenyan Bishops push against bill on reproductive health care

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Kenyan Bishops, alongside several pro-life groups in the country, have pushed against a 2019 Reproductive Health Care Bill currently before the senate of the east African country.

In a collective 17 August memorandum to the country’s Senate Committee on Health, the groups asked for the bill’s withdrawal “entirely without amendments” following fresh calls for public participation in the proposed law. 

The memorandum was signed by the leadership of 26 groups including the Kenyan Bishops’ Conference (KCCB), Catholic Members of Parliament in Kenya, Kenyan Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF), Franciscan Friars Kenya, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) and the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, among others.

Concerns raised

The groups listed various concerns regarding the proposed bill arguing that it is pushing for “illegalities and practices that are not acceptable” as they will “make abortion on demand legal” – which, they said, “is contrary to the spirit of our Constitution of 2010 and the Penal Code.”

Besides, the groups allege that the bill is “sponsored and championed by foreign NGOs that have continually pushed for it online, through media and also through holding workshops with a number of legislators.” All of these, they claim, are aimed at making abortion legal in all of Africa, beginning with Kenya.

Also, they said that proposed law pushes for surrogacy “without offering a clear framework on how this can be practiced” and with all of its negative effects “including harm to the best interests of the child and the spirit of Article 45 of the Constitution.” They also said that the bill leaves “loopholes for same-sex unions and related practices which are currently illegal in the country,” and it aims “at legalizing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in the name of adolescent-friendly education.”

Kenyan Bishops against the bill

The Catholic Bishops in Kenya have been vocal in their campaign against the proposed law.

On 23 June, the Bishops explained their opposition to the Bill in a letter to the country’s Catholic Members of Parliament. They listed various concerns including the “deliberately ambiguous” wording of the bill, and its contravention of the teachings of the Gospel, especially concerning the right to life and the protection of children and the family.

In particular, the Bishops contested the definition of pregnancy as “the presence of a foetus in the womb” – a definition which, according to them, does not recognize the right to life of everyone, and that the life of a person begins at conception. They also pointed out that they are aware that “a proposal to legalize abortion has been presented in parliament.”

“As Bishops, we respond to our belief that regards abortion as the intentional killing of human life,” read the Bishops’ June statement. 

Also, in a collective statement on 5 July, the Bishops reiterated their push against the Reproductive Health Care Bill, underscoring their dedication to defending the “right to life, the dignity of children and the family as an inseparable unit.”

And, as an alternative to a clause in the bill that provides justification for the “termination of unwanted pregnancies,” the Bishops propose a proactive approach that involves “mentorship and behavior change programs, life skills and human sexuality programs.”

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