Portuguese threaten to block 'abortion boat'

30th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 August 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Portugal has threatened its navy will use force if necessary to stop a Dutch floating clinic entering its territorial waters to provide abortion services to Portuguese women.

30 August 2004

AMSTERDAM — Portugal has threatened its navy will use force if necessary to stop a Dutch floating clinic entering its territorial waters to provide abortion services to Portuguese women.

The pro-choice Dutch foundation Women on Waves — which operates the so-called abortion boat — has vowed to remain just outside Portuguese waters until allowed entry to the southern European nation, news agency AFP has reported.

The group plans to dock and take Portuguese women onboard. Once in international waters where it can operate under Dutch legislation, the boat's medical staff intends to give the women the abortion pill to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

A spokesperson for the Portuguese Defence Ministry told AFP that two Portuguese navy vessels are monitoring the abortion boat and will use force if necessary to ensure that it does not enter national waters.

Abortion is illegal in staunchly-Catholic Portugal except in situations where the mother's life is in danger. Termination is also allowed if there is a risk to the woman's physical or mental health, or in conditions such as sexual violence or possible congenital deformity.

On foot of an invitation from various Portuguese human rights groups, the boat set sail from the Dutch port of Den Helder on 23 August. The Women on Waves group hopes to spark debate about Portugal's restrictive abortion laws and hand out information.

It recently lost a court battle in the Netherlands to temporarily suspend a restriction imposed by the Dutch Health Ministry which limits the boat's medical staff to performing abortions within 25km of Slotervaart Hospital in Amsterdam.

It is free to provide abortion pills in international waters to women not more than six and a half weeks pregnant. The use of the abortion pill is not covered by Dutch legislation.

The Portuguese authorities refused permission for the boat to enter its territorial waters on Saturday. The boat is currently staying some 24km off the northern port of Figueira da Foz.

The Women on Waves group had intended to remain in Portugal for six weeks. The group has vowed to remain in international waters until it is granted permission to enter Portuguese territory.

In explaining his country's refusal to allow the ship entry, Maritime Affairs State Secretary Nuno Fernandes Thomaz cited legal and health reasons for turning the boat away.

He said that the abortion pill is banned in Portugal and that authorities would use force if necessary to prevent the ship from entering Portuguese waters.
 
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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