A Shipboard Abortion Clinic is Docked After Ten Years

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Ten years ago a Dutch organization called Women on Waves devised a solution for women seeking abortions in countries that ban it: an abortion clinic on a ship where doctors would perform the delicate operation in international waters under the jurisdiction of The Netherlands.

All told, only a symbolic number of abortions have been performed on the boat, and now that Dutch law is leaning conservative on abortion the ship is docked–for now.

Paul Ames interviews Women on Waves founder Rebbeca Gomperts for Global Post:

Gomperts said WoW’s biggest achievement was perhaps a 2004 campaign in Portugal where warships were deployed to prevent the Dutch ship Borndiep from approaching the coast.

No women were able to come aboard for abortions, but Gomperts said the publicity generated helped win over Portuguese public opinion in a referendum that voted to legalize abortion in 2007. Early in 2009, WoW won a case at the European Court of Human Rights against the Portuguese navy’s action.

“We have been able to help a symbolic number of women in order to create a better awareness about the social injustice that is created by illegal abortion and the suffering that is caused for women,” she said. “The ship is never a solution … It has been a very important tool to mobilize women’s organizations, and other groups, doctors and lawyers, around safe and legal abortion.”

While political developments have hampered the movement, Gomperts said medical progress has made abortion easier and safer, with the widespread availability of pills like mifepristone and misoprostol. The use of such drugs in so-called medical abortions removes the need for the traditional intrusive procedures which, when carried out illegally by backstreet abortionists, kill almost 70,000 women every year.

Source: Global Post

Image by Women on Waves.

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