Thursday 21 August 2008

Eugenics and coercion in Kenyan abortion bill

In a recent blog I reported on the draft Reproductive Health and Rights bill in Kenya, denounced by John Cardinal Njue as "an affront… to the integrity of the human being" as well as a socio-economic threat to Kenya’s future; and on Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki saying “he saw no reason, now, or in the future, why anyone would want to legalize abortion in Kenya”.

Southern Cross Bioethics Institute (SCBI) has prepared on SPUC's behalf a commentary on the new bill which you can find here.

The bill, if passed, will promote and allow easy access to abortion on demand, with virtually no safeguards to protect unborn children.

Under the subtle guise of "reproductive rights" language, the bill declares "safe and accessible abortion-related care" as a reproductive right. Abortion can be permitted provided that “the continued pregnancy would pose a risk of injury to the woman’s physical or mental health”. This will, in effect, allow abortions on demand. Notably, this clause avoids using the term "substantial risk" (common to abortion legislation) and consequently may be used as grounds for abortion in any circumstance, given that all pregnancies carry at least a minor risk of harm.

The bill goes on to list specific circumstances where an abortion is easily available, discriminating against unborn children conceived in specific circumstances. These include:
  • those conceived through sexual violence or incest (a statement from the mother alone will be taken as proof of sexual assault);
  • those at risk of "severe physical or mental abnormality" (thus deepening worldwide lethal prejudice against the disabled whom the state has a special duty to protect);
  • those facing "extreme social deprivation" (a term which is not defined, which could be interpreted very broadly within Kenya and which will increase eugenic discrimination against those living and attempting to raise children in poverty);
  • those resulting from contraceptive failure (which deems unborn human life disposable and discards any notion of individual responsibility for sexual behaviour. It is utterly implausible that the courts could or would determine whether contraception had actually been used in a specific instance.)
Access to abortion would also be made easily available to minors without any legal requirement of parental knowledge or consent. This would be a clear abuse of power by the state, overriding parental rights despite their primary responsibility and input into the child’s welfare.

Further evidence of potential state abuse can be seen in a clause permitting abortion for “mentally disordered” persons. Such women would lack the capacity to consent and, while consultation with the woman’s guardian is required, the bill leaves open the dangerous possibility that the state may be able to enforce an abortion without the consent of the mother or her family.

The bill, if passed, will comprehensively undermine the sanctity of human life from conception, as well as neglect the interests of those in Kenya who seek to uphold the value and dignity of human life. Like the reproductive health bill in the Philippines, the bill aims to prevent true conscientious objection among health care service providers, by ensuring that those who object are legally required immediately to refer a patient to another practitioner who will provide an abortion. Conscientious objectors will thus be forced to be complicit with the unethical practice of others.

The draft bill, like in the Philippines, has worryingly totalitarian overtones that will deny freedom of conscience to those who oppose its obviously pro-abortion agenda.