Kenya: Tempers Flare Over 'Abortion Agenda' at Reproductive Health Summit

14 November 2019

Disagreements continued to rock the controversy-ridden International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) forum in Nairobi Thursday.

This is after the United States and the European Union openly clashed over what the former claimed was a hidden pro-choice agenda, setting the stage for a global showdown over issues such as abortion and sex education for teenagers.

A seemingly agitated US delegation argued that pro-life and pro-family groups had been barred from attending the event.

They claimed that the forum had a hidden pro-abortion agenda due to its lack of transparency.

The US stated that "any outcomes from this summit are not intergovernmentally negotiated, nor will they have been the result of a consensus," and urged states not to honour the more than 1,250 global commitments that have already been made.

The EU (and aligned nations including Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Guinea, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Spain, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom, who had issued an earlier statement) on the other hand said they wanted universal support for informed reproductive health choices for women.

A joint ad hoc delegation of 10 members of the EU Parliament, headed by Evelyn Regner and Norbert Neuser who were joined by the EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue, said they supported the Nairobi meeting and its attendant commitments.

"We don't only support them fully but we're going further to commit €1 billion towards sexual and reproductive health and rights which are absolutely important because seven women per day are dying in Kenya because of unsafe abortions and other conditions," said Ms Regner, adding: "These are fundamental rights and we believe money should be dedicate to comprehensive sexual education and service provision, measures that could prevent these women from dying."

But the US team claimed that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) was coded language for abortion.

"We are also concerned about the content of some of the key priorities of this Summit. We do not support references in international documents to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus, nor the same reservations or caveats which are applied to similar terms," said Huber Valerie the head of the US delegation.

"The term SRHR has been used to aggressively promote practices like abortion. There is no international right to abortion," he said.

The US delegation, flanked by some Kenyan MPs, said that the "legislative process should reflect the democratic expression of the will of the people through their freely elected representatives."

National Assembly deputy minority whip Chris Wamalwa said: "We will ensure that NGOs moving around the country trying to promote abortion are forced make full disclosure on their activities and where their money is coming from."

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