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Government should investigate how £200 million of UK aid may be supporting illegal abortions, says doctor group

Published: 1st December 2018

The doctors group, the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was responding to the news that authorities in Kenya have banned Marie Stopes Kenya, a part of Marie Stopes International (MSI), from carrying out abortions. This was shortly before the authorities in Niger closed two MSI clinics this week, for illegally performing abortions.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) issued this order after it was ruled that Marie Stopes was breaking the rules on advertising abortions, while the Health Minister of Niger said that MSI had broken a 2006 law banning abortion unless a mother's life is at risk.

This is not unprecedented. In 2012, it was found that MSI had carried out over 500 illegal abortions in Zambia.

Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy at CMF commented: "From 2012-2017, the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) provided £163.01 million to MSI in aid, including at least one specific contract covering Kenya, worth £8.2 million. MSI's work in Niger is funded as part of DIFD's ongoing programmes and is to be part of the new £200 million 'Women's Integrated Sexual Health' (WISH) programme.

"It is not clear how the millions received from DFID by MSI, or its subsidiaries, is spent in Kenya, Niger and elsewhere because of a lack of transparency. Has any of the money from taxpayers been used to promote and carry out illegal abortions instead of trying to save the lives of expectant mother?"

In October, a report carried out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) highlighted the significant failures in how DFID aid was spent. It criticised the failure of DFID to improve maternal health services offered to women, finding there was an 'intensive focus on family planning' to the detriment of other causes of maternal morbidity and mortality.

It went on to say that although unsafe abortions were the cause of just one in twelve (7.9%) maternal deaths, this area received a disproportionate allocation of DFID resources. Other factors which contributed to maternal deaths such as haemorrhage (27.1%), hypertensive disorders (14%) and sepsis (10.7%) were often neglected by comparison. The ICAI concluded by saying, 'progress on improving emergency obstetric and neonatal care has been well short of targets'.

Taylor continued: "The purpose of DFID money was saving lives, yet not enough is spent on the biggest killers of mothers including sepsis and post-partum haemorrhage."

Polls in Kenya show that 87% of Kenyans do not support abortion. Taylor noted "DFID is funding an organisation that has been accused on several occasions of providing abortions in African countries against national laws, and against the popular wishes of the people."

Despite these concerns the UK government has recently committed a further £36 million to increasing access to modern family planning in Kenya yet cannot confirm how this money will be spent, nor how much will go to MSI or their wholly owned subsidiary Marie Stopes Kenya.

Taylor concluded: "CMF is supportive of DFID funding the work of doctors and nurses who are working hard to improve the lives of mothers and babies by addressing problems such as haemorrhage, sepsis and hypertension. Public money should not be spent on promoting and providing abortions. Our concerns are shared by the British public. Last year a poll by ComRes found that 65% of UK taxpayers oppose the use of tax payer money to fund abortions overseas.

"Given the legitimate concerns raised by the authorities in Kenya and Niger, it is time the Government investigates MSI to absolutely ensure that all British taxpayers' money is being spent in accordance with the laws in other countries, and to ensure that limited resources are directed to where they will do the most good."

For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225.

Ends

Footnotes:

1: DFID have funded Marie Stopes International in Kenya at least since 2013 as part of a concerted programme to reduce maternal and newborn deaths https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/projects/GB-1-202549.

2: it is not clear how Marie Stopes Kenya, a wholly owned subsidiary of MSI, is funded.

3: DFID published a statement on the Kenyan Government's response to MSK saying:

"No UK aid money is being used to fund illegal abortions in Kenya. The UK is currently developing a new programme, which will provide £36m to support the Government of Kenya to increase access to modern family planning services between 2019 and 2024.

"Family planning services will be delivered as part of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services in-line with DFID policy and global best practice. In Kenya, any provision of safe abortion services will only be supported within the parameters set out in the Kenyan Constitution."

4: Article 26(4) of the Kenyan Constitution states that, 'Abortion is not permitted unless, 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 or if permitted by any other written law'.

Notes to editors

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 British doctor, nurse and midwife members in all specialties. A registered charity, it is linked to about 80 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian doctors and nurses to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

For further information:

Dr Peter Saunders (CMF Chief Executive) 020 7234 9660
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

Christian Medical Fellowship:
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