Why Might Someone Undergo an Abortion Later in Pregnancy in Kenya?

There is no single answer to this question. As with a lot of health care procedures, there are a variety of reasons someone may need to undergo an abortion later in pregnancy. And the later the abortion happens, usually, the more heart-breaking the situation is. 

Typically, the further you are into a pregnancy, the more at peace (or even excited) you are about what’s to come. A baby is anticipated, the pregnancy has been announced, parents are planning to bring a baby home, the baby’s gender may have been revealed, and the baby may even already have a name. Then, something terrible happens and the parents find out that for some reason or another they need to make an excruciating, devastating choice. This may come in the form of discovering a foetal anomaly or the life of the birth parent may be endangered if the pregnancy continues or if they undergo childbirth.

“When abortion in the third trimester is necessary, it is almost always due to tragic circumstances—a woman’s life is threatened, or a severe or lethal foetal condition is identified later in pregnancy,” says Dr. Chasen. 

In addition to these heart-breaking health situations for the parent or baby, another reason some abortions may happen later in pregnancy is because of legal red tape, mandatory waiting periods, and lack of access to abortion care. 

“We know from decades of research that when people are unable to access abortion earlier in pregnancy, largely due to [legal] restrictions, cost, and other practical factors, they end up being further into the pregnancy when they come in for [abortion] care,” says Dr. Horvath. 

It is important to note, however, that abortions that occur in the third trimester are not infanticide (or what many call “partial-birth abortions,” another deceiving term that is not used in the medical community). These procedures are highly regulated, with most Kenyan hospitals requiring the life or health of the pregnant person or baby to be endangered in order to undergo the procedure. 

Sadly, life-threatening situations that lead to abortions later in pregnancy often cannot be avoided, but there are ways other abortions later in pregnancy can be reduced (beyond the already-tiny portion of all abortions they make up). 

“Unplanned pregnancy is the most common indication,” says Dr. Chasen, “We can minimize these by promoting fact-based sex education and making contraception widely available, and ideally cost-free.” (Though he does point out that no contraception is 100% effective, and, sadly, “rape and other forms of sexual coercion are far too common”). 

Again, in order to fully understand the “issue” of abortion later in pregnancy, it’s essential to know and understand the facts—not the talking points of politicians on the campaign trail or cable news network anchors. To learn more about abortions later in pregnancy, Dr. Horvath recommends www.womenforwomenkenya.com, a resource website that focuses on the people and reasons for abortions later in pregnancy (rather than simply focusing on when the abortion takes place).