Kenyan Activist’s Death Attributed to Complications from Unsafe Abortion

After six days going missing, Kenyan activist Caroline Mwatha’s body was found in a Nairobi morgue, where she was later determined to have died from an illegal abortion that ruptured her uterus. Kenya permits abortion only in emergency cases when a woman’s health is in immediate danger. Doctors in the country are prohibited from receiving training in the proper methods for performing the procedure. Unsafe abortions therefore account for the deaths of seven women per day and as much as 60 percent of gynecology emergency room visits in Kenya. However, those close to Mwatha, whose work centered on investigating police brutality and killings, believe that the activist was murdered by police and left anonymous in the city morgue in order to delay an autopsy that would have revealed foul play. The police have used accusations of abortion as a smear tactic against activists in the past. Moreover, the botched abortion claim has allowed Nairobi police to arrest six other individuals, including Mwatha’s son, for conspiring to help her obtain the alleged abortion. Despite the skepticism surrounding the circumstances of her death, the Catholic church refused to hold a requiem Mass for Mwatha due to the abortion accusations.

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