The proposed Constitution of Kenya is “fundamentally flawed” because it paves the way for “abortion on demand” and recognizes Muslim civil courts, the Catholic bishops of the country have objected. They compared the proposed document, which is backed by the Obama administration, to an egg beginning to go bad.
In a Tuesday statement the bishops repeated their advice that the Kenyan people should reject the constitution.
"We do not believe that a document that is fundamentally flawed should be passed only with a very vague hope that it will be amended later, especially when the process of amendment is more difficult after than before,” they explained in an April 15 statement.
"To vote for the constitution is to vote for all of it, including its good and its bad provisions. It is impossible to separate them,” the bishops of Kenya said.
They explained that those who vote for the proposed constitution because of some provisions they like are also responsible for voting for the “morally problematic” provisions.
“We cannot in good conscience advise Kenyans to vote for the proposed constitution of Kenya with the hope of future amendments,” the prelates added. “We also cannot in good conscience leave the matter to Kenyans without giving our considered advice in moral matters so that they can form their consciences in accord with the will of God expressed to us through the moral laws that form part of our cherished Christian tradition.”
Making comparisons to food preparation, the bishops said the constitution is not a bag of potatoes from which the few bad potatoes can be removed. Rather, it is like a “delicate” egg which if it goes bad “goes bad wholly and you cannot separate the good from bad.”
According to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the U.S. State Department has pledged to spend $2 million to build support for the proposed constitution.
Three leading Republican U.S. congressmen, including Rep. Smith, have called for a federal probe into whether the Obama administration broke federal laws by promoting the new constitution. A budget provision called the Siljander Amendment prohibits the U.S. government from lobbying for or against abortion using the funds appropriated by Congress.
Opening for Legal Abortion
The Kenyan constitution presently includes no reference to abortion, which the country’s law permits only to save the life of the mother. According to the bishops’ statement, the physician must do everything in his or her power to save both mother and child.
On the other hand, the proposed new constitution would allow abortion in cases where health care professionals believe a mother’s “health” is endangered, an exception which has been broadly interpreted in many countries.
Charging that this article opens the doors to “abortion on demand,” the bishops noted the ambiguities in the definitions of “health” and “health care professional.”
They questioned whether the risk to a mother’s health or stress to a young expectant mother is a sufficient reason to abort a child in the womb. They also criticized “elitist groups” who demand that abortion be legalized on “spurious” health grounds, such as body image or the need for social acceptance.
Procured abortion itself causes health problems, the prelates said, noting the phenomenon of “post-abortion syndrome” which can damage a woman’s emotional life.
Noting that President Mwai Kibaki has publicly stated at least twice that abortion would not be allowed in any proposed constitution for Kenya, the bishops called for the removal of the clause from the draft constitution.
Another article of the proposal would create the right to health care services including “reproductive health care,” a common euphemism for abortion access.
Muslim Civil Courts
The Kenyan bishops also mentioned the constitution’s establishment of state-funded Kadhi Courts as part of the judiciary. The prelates said debate on the question has been misunderstood and has created “unnecessary suspicion” among Kenyans on the matter of religion.
“It is not a Christians versus Muslims affair. It is simply about equality of all before the state,” they wrote.
Criticizing “special treatment” for professing Muslims, they called the Kadhi Court provision an “anomaly” that gives privileges to certain Kenyans because of their religion, race and tribe. Allowing certain groups “special privileges” violates the fundamental principle of equality, they commented, also citing the proposed constitution’s declaration that there shall be no state religion.