Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backstreet Abortions in Kenya: Few Other Options

Thanks to my Women's Studies student Rachael Capone for bringing this article from to my attention. As we've been talking about the after-effects of colonialism (called neocolonialism) on nations throughout the world, the issue of overworked health care systems and residual colonial-era State policies is one example of very real problems affecting the daily lives of numerous families. How does this news story reflect or connect to our recent literary forays into postcolonial conditions in Latin America (via Pablo Neruda's poetry) and the Caribbean (via the documentary Life and Debt)?


  1. I think that this article relates to the documentary, Life and Debt, because of the severe economic struggles going on, caused mainly by the postcolonial conditions. The fact that the young girl mentioned in the story had to become a prostitute when her father died of AIDS shows that the economic struggles of individuals are extremely life threatening. Also, I found it interesting that the article never really mentioned birth control or protection, such as condoms. If these startling numbers of dangerous abortions (as well as the numbers of people dying from HIV/AIDS) could be prevented by emphasizing the use of condoms, why is the government not placing more importance on that than changing the already restrictive laws?

  2. I think that this is an important article to read. It shows how many women and girls are struggling in Kenya and the extremes they will go to. Using needles and wire for abortions, contracting AIDS, and throwing babies into the streets is common there. I think that it is sad that churches would focus on abortion when situations like this are happening. Isn't it more important to find health care for these girls and places for the babies that are being born to live than to waste time fighting about whether abortion is right or wrong? Children are being born and women have no medical care, maybe the church should face reality and find ways to help people instead of condemning them.

  3. This article really made me upset. I honestly feel as though this is an issue in many different third world countries, it saddens me to know that this could be prevented and young children and even older mothers lives could be saved. This article makes me think about the movie Life and Debt because of the strong economic struggle that both Jamaica and Kenya are having that the rest of the world really hasn't gotten to see. Condoms and other methods of contraceptives are being advertised everywhere in the United States where I am sure the abortion rate isn't any where near where it is in these countries. Why aren't the governments helping push the use of these contraceptives to change the rate of deaths in third world countries?

  4. Delaney Tomczak

    This article was quite revealing to the true nature of things that many of us are unaware of here in America in our daily lives. This article just goes to show one the status that other countries continue to be in during post-colonial time periods. The slums and filthy nature of living are deteriorating and eating away at the people there. The article also is a great way for the media to help us see the poor nature which these people are living in. With out the media in this case, we probably would have never guessed this was going on...just as in Life and Debt, the documentary was a source of information to make us more away of the struggling economic conditions which many countries are in and struggling to live through.

  5. Shawna Bruell (Extra Credit)
    This article was horrifying and sad. It really made me open my eyes and see how much freedom we really do have here. It is sad to realize that in these impoverished countries,such as Kenya or Jamaica (in Life and Debt) things like proper health care are either virtually none existent or very hard to acquire. The article shed light onto the the things that are still happening post colonially. Alison (above) made a great point and talking about how contraceptives are advertised frequently here, and even abortions (although looked down upon by some people) are still available to those who so choose. We don't have to deal with such things as "backstreet abortions" which put the mothers in severe danger. I think it is really sad that these women do not have the money to raise their "child" and/or equally as sad that they have to resort to giving themselves and abortion because their is no one their to properly do so and help them heal.

  6. Carrie Barbagallo

    There is a strong connection between this article and the documentary Life and Debt. Both Kenya and Jamaica are struggling while in the post-colonialism stage. The economic struggles are seen in this article when it shares the story about Beatrice and her decision to prostitute herself after her father's death by AIDS in order to help support her family.
    I feel like one of the biggest problems that needs to be addressed about this situation in Kenya right now is not that children are being aborted and mothers are dying. I think that awareness needs to be made (which this article is a great start) and educational experience made available for the Kenyan people to learn about birth control and protection. Returning to Beatrice's story, her father died from AIDS which was probably a result of unprotected sexual intercourse. Then Beatrice's death could have been prevented had she not gotten pregnant in the first place. In the United States, birth control and condoms are readily available and taught about at a fairly young age so that emerging adolescents can be safe.
    If awareness and availability of birth control methods increased in places like Kenya, then the number of pregnancies and ultimately abortions, would decrease. Like Amy said, the focus should not be on whether abortion is acceptable or not, but more so on health care reform so that more lives can be saved.

  7. I had one more thought I meant to address:

    This article also reminded me of "dumpster babies." It seems that all these Kenyan mother's know is that the abortion laws are confusing and there are backstreet ways to get rid of their unwanted child that they are scared to have. I feel like a lot of "dumpster babies" in the United States are a result of young mothers who are afraid of what motherhood will entail and are not yet ready for the responsibility being placed on them because of their pregnancy.

  8. Kelsey Brennan (extra credit)

    It seems that in Kenya there should be more involvement from other countries in order to help solve this problem of such a high abortion rate. Kenya's neo-colonial conditions are too horrible to be left alone. The U.S. or another country should step in and promote "safe-sex" since it is unrealistic to promote abstinence among a culture where child prostitution is still so prevalent. This case is the complete opposite of the situations described by Neruda and "Life and Debt." Latin America no longer wanted involvement from the U.S., but here it seems as if Kenya needs the foreign help. Whether it is a team of doctors or a monthly supply of condoms, something needs to be done because this country is not taking care of its own people anymore.

  9. Megan Barnes

    In the film Life and Debt, workers were used to create high fashion clothing such as Tommy Hilfiger. Their earnings equaled about thirty American dollars a month, which is hardly enough to support a family. This issue where the lack of money and resources causes mothers to leave their children for dead is often seen in Kenya. These too issues both affect families and financial help needs to be given to prevent these horrible situations.

  10. Betsy Kaeberle-For comment

    I think that everyone should have to read this article. This article is an important inward look into a major social issue outside of our culture. The women in Kenya are having backstreet abortions because no other option is available to them. Healthcare in Kenya is unaffordable to most people therefore they can’t go through a safe abortion, it’s simply not an option. I did notice that not much was said on the prevention of pregnancy in the first place. I think the churches in Kenya should focus more on that aspect, educating the people about pregnancy and the ways to prevent it, instead of downright saying that these abortions should illegalized. If abortions would to be made illegal, then more and more women would be going to the unsafe secret backstreets for them. First thing is first, healthcare should be made a priority, like in Sierra Leone, work to try and get these women free healthcare and educate them.

  11. Kayla Hirschmugl (extra credit commentary)
    One comment that stuck out to me when I read it was a quote from a church leader in Kenya. He was stating his solution for the backstreet abortion problem crippling present day Kenya, “Why do women in this country, or elsewhere, want to go ahead and get pregnant and then procure abortions? Why are we not realizing that the way you can avoid going through the whole problem of abortion by just not getting pregnant?" This comment to me is very superfluous. It is stating something that is at times, unavoidable, not to mention the idea that these young girls and women are purposefully getting pregnant, “want to go ahead and get pregnant.” Oh course the whole issue of abortions would be avoided if these girls and women did not get pregnant in the first place, but how are they supposed to accomplish this when methods of birth control are not once mentioned. I feel as though this church leader is implying the idea of abstinence, but when a 14 year old girl, who’s father has died from AIDS needs to help support her family by becoming a child prostitute, the outcome of becoming pregnant is almost entirely inevitable. If Kenya wants to push the idea of abstinence as being their idea of birth control, it makes me wonder if they even teach these children at a young at that this is an option.
    Teaching these children about birth control, whether it be the idea of abstinence or condoms, could dramtically reduce not only the number of unwanted pregnancies but also the death toll related to AIDS.

  12. I feel that this article is closely related to the documentary Life and Debt directed by Stephanie Black. In both cases the people living in these countries are so desperate to provide money for their family, they will do almost anything to get it like a 14 year old being a prostitute. I feel as if having the churchs in Kenya make all abortions illegal will only make things worse. The way women have abortions will probably become riskier for their health. The people of Kenya should be educated on how to have protective sex. That may lower the number of women who have unwanted pregnancies.

  13. This was a staggering article to read. As a citizen of a country where personal privacy and the right to make one's own decisions are highly valued commodities, I'm offended by a government that would put laws into effect that so jeopardize the lives of its citizens. Unwanted pregnancy is a part of life. It's a statistical truth that is unfortunate, but real. This is especially true in an undeveloped nation like Kenya. The laws will not be cutting down on abortions in general, as this article notes. The legal abortions are the ones that will be targeted. Women will be forced to go seek out backstreet abortions to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies. This article offers some parallels to Life and Debt, which also showed government laws and agreements hurting its citizens. The main difference is that one was financial and the other one is physical.

  14. This article was both shocking and eye-opening. The economic struggles described in Kenya are quite similar to those portrayed in the movie “Life and Debt”. The extremes that people are willing to go through to make money and keep their families alive are extremely distressing, and should be addressed. Mother’s throwing babies in dumpsters should not be a reality in any country. Also the fact that young girls in Kenya resort to prostitution in order to survive is unjust. Their early sexual activities put them at risk of HIV/AIDS, this in turn will turn into an epidemic the nation is not ready for. On top of rapidly increasing poverty, young 14 year olds selling their body, and an HIV/AID epidemic the nation will be in turmoil. I also believe that legalizing abortion will not fix the problem, this will only make it more convenient for women to terminate a pregnancy rather than learn from their decisions.

  15. Although the extreme and drastic measures to which these girls were willing to go in order to not
    have these babies was quite sad, I thought it was interesting that they didn’t seem to consider the
    option of having the babies and giving them up for adoption to parents other well-off countries.
    Perhaps because it is not likely that they would give birth to healthy children.
    - I find the law against abortions to be very disturbing and on par with a law against same-sex
    marriage. In my opinion, it is too personal of an issue for there to be a law about it.
    How interesting yet sad it was to read that these expectant mother’s are willing to sacrifice their
    own health/lives in order to abort their babies. As Alicia mentioned, the fact that many women
    found themselves needing to resort to prostitution in order to make money is a testament to just
    how severe the economic crisis is, especially when we take into consideration all of the
    complications that can likely arise from such an unhealthy and unsafe lifestyle. To answer Alicia’s
    question, it seems as though there must be some reason as to why the government wants these
    girls, no matter how young, to be having these babies. However, if the government is aware of or
    witnesses the extreme measures to which these girls are willing to go in order to not have them,
    one would logically conclude that they ought to rethink it’s anti-abortion law. The article
    saddened me because here in the United States, contraceptives and the right to an abortion are
    just two more things we take advantage of over poorer, less fortunate countries. A parallel can be
    drawn to the movie Life and Debt where viewers are reminded that tourists enjoy and often take
    for granted the luxury of visiting and vacationing in multiple places throughout their lifetimes
    while natives of many places are not able to afford to live properly in their own place of birth.

  16. Natasha Bauer
    GENGY 239
    May 4, 201

    I have to say I have a pretty strong stomach, but that video was very hard to watch. The scene where the police officers were looking into the garbage back filled with 15 fetuses was gut-wrenching. It is infuriating that with all the knowledge the world has about contraception, AIDS, HIV, that women, not to mention children, in countries like Kenya are forced to become prostitutes and die after unsafe abortions. If the Kenyan government is so stubborn about its abortion illegalization, why does it not instead support contraception, make them more readily available to the women that they know are forced to live the lives they live because of the weak economy. Its a saddening, disheartening and horrible reality that many countries in Africa are forced to face. Like in Neruda’s depictions or in Life and Debt, the weak economy of Kenya is probably 80% of the problem. Should there be a stronger post-colonial economy, more jobs would be readily available to the public, including all women and young adults. Should their economy become more stable, the thousands of unfortunate deaths would be prevented, not to mention a distant memory.