A second mother named in the lawsuit, Margaret Anyoso, says she was locked up in Pumwani for six days in 2010 because she could not pay her $160 bill. Her pregnancy was complicated by a punctured bladder and heavy bleeding.
"I did not see my child until the sixth day after the surgery. The hospital staff were keeping her away from me and it was only when I caused a scene that they brought her to me," said Anyoso, a vegetable seller and a single mother with five children who makes $5 on a good day.
Anyoso said she didn't have clothes for her child so she wrapped her in a blood-stained blouse. She was released after relatives paid the bill.
One woman says she was detained for nine months and was released only after going on a hunger strike. The Center for Reproductive Rights says other hospitals also detain non-paying patients.
Judy Okal, the acting Africa director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said her group filed the lawsuit so all Kenyan women, regardless of socio-economic status, are able to receive health care without fear of imprisonment. The hospital, the attorney general, the City Council of Nairobi and two government ministries are named in the suit.
Associated Press reporter Tom Odula contributed to this report.