AUTHORITIES in Kenya have banned Marie Stopes Kenya from carrying out abortions in the country.  The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) issued this order after it was noted that Marie Stopes was advertising abortion services, despite a prohibition on all abortion advertising. Earlier this year, the Kenya Films Classification Board asserted that Marie Stopes adverts were promoting abortion, which is against the Kenyan Constitution. It observed that such advertising ‘targets teenage girls by giving them alternatives for unwanted or unplanned pregnancies’ and it demanded a public apology from Marie Stopes.

Soon after this announcement from Kenya, Niger ordered the closure of two centres run by Marie Stopes International, on the grounds that MSI was illegally performing abortions there.

Kenya and Niger are not the first countries to clash with the abortion giant. In 2012, it was found that MSI had carried out more than 500 illegal abortions in Zambia for social reasons, or simply because the pregnancy was unwanted.

This is of direct concern to the UK as we spend millions in taxpayers’ money via the Department for International Development (DfID) on MSI, including an £8.2million contract covering MSI working in Kenya, as well as more here too. MSI’s work in Niger is already funded as part of DfID’s ongoing programmes and is to be part of the new £200million ‘Women’s Integrated Sexual Health’ (WISH) programme.

DfID have stated that no UK money is being used to fund illegal abortions in Kenya. However, given the clear monetary link between DfID and MSI, the lack of transparency from DfID over what our money is actually being spent on, and knowing that abortion provision is at the heart of MSI’s work, it is difficult to be reassured by this statement. It certainly does not reassure over the situation in Niger.

Any claim that Marie Stopes Kenya (MSK) does not receive DfID funding for its clinics is technically correct. However, Marie Stopes International working in Kenya does receive DfID funding. And millions of pounds of it: see these official contracts between DfID and MSI in Kenya here, here and here. Moreover MSK is a wholly owned subsidiary of MSI!

Whether or not our funding goes direct to MSK or MSI in Kenya, the point is that our taxpayer money is being given to an abortion giant that has broken laws in at least three of the countries that it works in. There is very little transparency in ensuring DfID money is not used to fund illegal advertising or abortions, and very little accountability to tell us taxpayers how many abortions we are actually paying for globally.

The Government assures us that any funding given with regard to family planning is used in accordance with the recipient nation’s legislation. UK aid cannot be used to fund illegal services. Surely it is worrying that in Niger, MSI has been violating the law? And in Kenya its subsidiary has been? The KMPDB in its criticism of MSK resorted to instructions to the organisation to submit a weekly report detailing all the services offered at its clinics for 60 days.

We should not forget the context in which MSI in Kenya works. 87% of Kenyans are opposed to abortion. Abortion is not permitted unless the life or health of the mother is at risk, legislation that reflects societal values and the belief that life begins at conception and that every person (thus including the unborn child) has the right to life. A ComRes poll in the UK in 2017 found that 65 per cent of UK taxpayers oppose the use of their money to fund abortions overseas.

Yet MSI proudly states that it provided more than 4.1million safe abortion and post-abortion care services in 2017. Marie Stopes Kenya increased its CYP (Couple Years of Protection) delivery by 18 per cent since 2016. (A CYP is a measurement used by family planning services, which represents the contraception required by a couple to prevent pregnancy for one year.) Part of this increase was due to safe abortion/post-abortion care services which rose by 13 per cent.

A recent report carried out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) highlighted significant failures by DfID to improve maternal health services. The report suggests that there was an intensive focus on family planning to the detriment of other causes of maternal morbidity and mortality. Although unsafe abortions are a cause of maternal mortality, these account for only 7.9 per cent of maternal deaths. The biggest contributors to maternal deaths are haemorrhage (27.1 per cent), hypertensive disorders (14 per cent) and sepsis (10.7 per cent). These are not prevented by family planning services. Despite the money thrown at developing countries to improve access to contraception and abortion, the report found that ‘progress on improving emergency obstetric and neonatal care has been well short of targets’.

I agree with Lord Alton, who is calling on the Government to undertake an urgent inquiry into allegations that Marie Stopes International is performing illegal abortions in Kenya. He said: ‘They need to determine as a matter of urgency whether Marie Stopes International is in fact promoting and performing abortions contrary to the law in Kenya. Investment in quality maternal health services in Africa should be prioritised rather than an intense imposition of abortion and population control.’

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