Kenya’s constitutional referendum has been, for the past several months, the source of some controversy in the United States with suggestions that the United States has taken a heavy hand in advocating for its approval. It would seem that the reported $23 million spent by the U.S. Agency for International Development to influence Kenyan voters to vote “Yes” has paid off.
The new constitution was approved by a majority of close to 70 percent in a referendum on Wednesday. The new constitution enshrines the right to abortion when “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger” as a “fundamental right and freedom.” This is a departure from the previous constitution which made no mention of abortion and the Kenyan penal code which allowed for abortion for the sake of preserving the life of the mother. The provision for abortions in the new constitution comes just two lines after the statement “Every person has the right to life. The life of a person begins at conception.”
The incongruity of thought displayed in this one paragraph of the new constitution was reflected in the country’s decision to ratify it; Kenya is, according to a March 2010 poll, an overwhelmingly pro-life country. In response to the referendum results, the Catholic Bishops of Kenya have published a statement that reminds the people of Kenya, that despite the widespread support for the new constitution, “truth and right are not about numbers. We therefore, as the shepherds placed to give moral guidance to our people, still reiterate the need to address the flawed moral issues in this proposed constitution. That voice should never be silenced.”
The bishops full statement can be read here.