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‘Dumped Babies Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg’: The Deadly Consequences of Curbing Reproductive Rights

Part one of our two-part series with The Telegraph & Kenya’s Daily Nation

The Fuller Project’s Louise Donovan and Nasibo Kabale, from Kenya’s Daily Nation, teamed up to investigate funding for contraception and family planning, and what it means for women in Kenya. Abortion is mostly illegal. For women and girls who struggle financially, contraception is expensive. In cases of unwanted pregnancies, or where they are unable to support a child, some women and girls either seek illegal, dangerous back-alley abortions without proper medical guidance, or give birth — often in secret — and dump the infant out of desperation. 

It’s not a story any reporter wants to find, but good journalism looks at how policy truly affects women. In just one small stretch of the Nairobi river, a volunteer clean-up team found nine babies. 

Both journalists spent months talking to young women, medical and health officials and government workers to understand the problem. More than half of girls between 15-19 who want contraception can’t get access to it. Meanwhile the U.S. dramatically reduced funding for maternal health and family planning in Kenya under President Trump’s administration, from $41 million in 2017 to $8.8 million just one year later causing devastation for Kenyan women and girls.  

After the first story published in 2019, Esther Passaris, a Nairobi politician, contacted the volunteer clean-up team featured in the story who were finding abandoned fetuses in the river. As a result, in early 2020, the team said they received $10,000 in funding through the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) which they used to continue to rejuvenate the area, including building pathways, gardens and a playground for children. According to Christoper Wairimu, the group’s secretary, this was directly related to the story. Passaris read it and wanted to help.

The story had over 130K unique readers, above average for the Telegraph pre-pandemic, and it was also nominated for the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. 

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