This article examines lay narratives about abortion among adult men and women in Nyeri district, central Kenya. The women studied do not champion or defend abortion and they do not necessarily condemn it. To them, abortion shields not merely against the shame of mistimed or socially unviable entry into recognized motherhood but more importantly against the negative socioeconomic consequences of mistimed or unnecessary childbearing and inconvenient entry into motherhood. The men, on the other hand, were generally condemnatory toward abortion, viewing it as women's strategy for concealing their deviation from culturally acceptable gender and motherhood standards. Induced abortion will persist in Kenya not primarily because it protects against the shame associated with mistimed childbearing and entry into motherhood, but largely because women associate mistimed childbearing and inconvenient entry into motherhood with poverty and loss of marital viability. Kenyan women seeking abortion may also continue to rely on poor quality abortion services because qualified providers who clandestinely perform abortion charge prohibitively.
Medical Anthropology (2009) 28 (4) 397-425 [doi: 10.1080/01459740903304009]