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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Foetuses spark Kenya abortion row
Remains being buried at a Nairobi cemetery (Pic: Kenyan TV)
The abortion issue has generated heated debate in Kenya

Thousands of Kenyans have attended a requiem mass in Nairobi for 15 foetuses - believed to have been illegally aborted - found dumped on a roadside last week.

The remains were then buried at the city's Langata Cemetery.

The discovery has reignited the debate on abortion in the country.

In Kenya, where abortion is illegal, the controversy has been rumbling on for years.

But the latest discovery has prompted leaders to speak out, with many taking a stand against legalising it.

Three health workers have been arrested in connection with the find.

The head of Kenya's Catholic Church, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki, vowed to mobilise the faithful to "vote out politicians who support abortion".

The leader of the National Nurses of Kenya, Donald Epalat, termed abortion a "great social evil" while the chairman of the country's Pharmaceutical Society, Kibwage Ongubo, urged his compatriots to resist any attempt to legalise it.

It is clearly unacceptable to allow the current scenario to persist
People's Daily

First Lady Lucy Kibaki and the chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, were among those calling for murder charges to be brought against those suspected of dumping the foetuses.

Anyone found seeking or abetting an abortion could face up to 14 years in jail.

'Wake up call'

One notable dissenter is the prominent Anglican layman and former attorney-general, Charles Njonjo, who supports the legalisation of both abortion and homosexuality.

Health Minister Charity Ngilu described Mr Njonjo's views as "morally repugnant and completely unacceptable".

The press has responded cautiously, while seeing the incident as an opportunity to debate the issue.

Lilian Juma, in the opposition Kenya Times, describes it as the "best wake-up call" for the government and people to "make a decision on the way forward: whether the country should legalise or outlaw the practice".

Similarly, the largest-circulation daily, the Nation, said that Kenyans needed an "open and honest debate" about abortion.

The independent People Daily said it was "clearly unacceptable to allow the current scenario to persist".

Despite being illegal, abortions are widely carried out in back street clinics.

Last year Kenyan women MPs called for abortion to be legalised.

They said that women resorted to terminations because men were not required to pay for the upkeep of children fathered out of wedlock.

About 700 women die each week in Kenya as a result of problems arising from abortions, while 60% of complications during pregnancy result from either previous abortions or miscarriages, according to medical reports.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Kenya divided over abortion
17 Jul 03  |  Africa

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