Expatica news

Dutch abortion ship returns home

10 September 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch abortion ship is expected to return home after failing in the past two weeks to gain entry to Portuguese territorial waters.

The director of the Dutch pro-choice foundation Women on Waves, Rebecca Gomperts, said the crew were tired: “They have spent a lot of time on the high seas”. The return journey will take about a week.

The group’s floating abortion clinic — the ship Borndiep — has been stranded in international waters off the Portuguese coast since 27 August.

The Portuguese navy was dispatched to block the ship entry to its territory and Women on Waves was making an 11th hour bid on Thursday night to gain permission to dock at the Aveiro harbour.

It has not been officially confirmed whether the group failed to gain permission to dock at Aveiro and Women on Waves was not answering phone calls on Friday morning. Nevertheless, it appears likely that the ship will be returning home.

Abortion is illegal in Portugal except in medical necessities and Women on Waves hoped to take Portuguese women not more than six and half weeks pregnant on board and supply them with the abortion pill in international waters, where it can operate under Dutch law.

But the Portuguese government refused the ship entry and a court backed that decision on 7 September. Not to be outdone, Gomperts appeared on Portuguese television this week to explain how women can have self-induced abortions.

She said women can buy readily available medicine at many pharmacists to induce an abortion and the advice has also been placed on the group’s website. Her actions enraged anti-abortionists, who lodged legal action.

The Portuguese group Motherhood and Life claims Dutch abortion doctor Gomperts violated the law and has lodged an official police complaint.

Women on Waves campaigns for more liberal abortion laws in countries where the practice is banned. Between 20,000 and 40,000 illegal abortions are performed in Portugal every year.

The group’s abortion ship previously sailed to Ireland and Poland. No abortions were carried out in Ireland.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news