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In Kenya, Adventist leadership distancing itself from proposed abortion law

Members expected to 'make informed decisions,' church official says

Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership in Kenya are not urging opposition or support for a proposed law that may relax abortion restrictions in the country, instead encouraging church members to vote according to their consciences.

The law, part of a proposed constitution, is widely opposed by Kenya's Protestant Christian majority. Adventist Church leaders have distanced themselves from the opposition, specifically declining to participate in an ongoing campaign to amend the law's wording before a referendum this summer, a statement from the church's East-Central African office said.

Under current law, abortions are illegal in Kenya unless a pregnancy threatens a woman's life. Opponents worry the new law's language leaves the definition of a threat open to broad interpretation, the Associated Press reported.

The church's statement reiterated local Adventist leaders' wishes to remain neutral on the law, but did outline a stance on abortion itself. "Categorically ... the church does not support abortion but when the life of the mother is in danger the medical practitioners are left to advise," it said.

The Adventist world church has never released an official statement on abortion, but it does offer guidelines on the issue.

Church leaders in Kenya said they would urge Adventist membership there to familiarize themselves with the law before voting in the referendum.

"We know our members have different views and it would be unfair to decide for all of them," Paul Muasya, Adventist Church president for East Africa, told the Standard, a Kenyan newspaper. "As leaders, we will guide them on the religious and moral issues involved, but we expect them to read [the law] and make informed decisions," he said.

Kenya's re-drafted constitution is part of a settlement deal following violence in the wake of the country's 2008 presidential elections, the Associated Press said.