Posted on | October 4, 2012 by Wendy Wright |
The Dutch Health Ministry announced that the staff on Women on Waves’ abortion boat, which flies a Dutch flag, could not commit abortions in international waters because it failed to apply for a permit. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports:
The Dutch ‘abortion boat’ has docked in the Moroccan harbour of Smir, say organisers Women on Waves. The ship had been prevented from docking for several hours by the Moroccan navy.
On Thursday afternoon, the Dutch Health Ministry announced that the staff on board the boat could not carry out abortions in international waters because they had failed to apply for a permit. The ministry added that it had repeatedly informed Women on Waves that they did not have authorisation to terminate pregnancies in international waters off the coast of Morocco.
According to the ministry, Women on Waves must apply for a permit each time it sails. The Dutch Health Care Inspectorate, said the ministry, needs to check the quality and safety of the care and follow-up care. It reiterated that Dutch law applies in international waters because the boat is flying a Dutch flag.
The boat is sailing to Morocco at the invitation of the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI), which is campaigning for the legalisation of abortion in the North African country.
On Wednesday, the health ministry announced that the ship was not authorised to operate in Morocco and called on the relevant authorities to prevent the visit from taking place. However, Kleiverga insisted that the boat would not counsel or treat women in Morocco. “We’re only going to provide treatment to women in international waters… Of course we (will) adhere to Moroccan law, and we’re not going to offer abortions in Morocco,” she added.
This is the first attempt Women on Waves has made to visit an Islamic country. In the past 11 years, its ship sailed to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Reuters is reporting that Morocco denied entry to Women on Waves’ abortion boat by blocking the harbor with warships.
Morocco blocked a Dutch “abortion ship” from entering one of its harbours on Thursday during a campaign group’s first attempt to visit to a Muslim country to raise awareness about safe methods of abortion.
The Women on Waves ship, which already has visited traditionally Roman Catholic countries Spain, Portugal and Ireland at the invitation of local women’s groups, had planned to arrive at Smir, northern Morocco, but was denied entry.
“The harbor is totally blocked by warships so no one can get in, and there are a lot of police here,” said Marlies Schellekens, a doctor from Women on Waves who had gone on shore.
“We’re now working on an emergency plan but we have opened up our hotline so women can call for information about the abortion pill.”
The group, which was invited to Morocco by rights group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI), wants to spread awareness on land about the use of pills for a medical abortion and said it would carry out abortions aboard the ship in international waters.
Like in other Muslim countries, abortion is illegal and punishable by up to 20 years in prison under Moroccan law, but hundreds of illegal abortions are carried out daily in clinics or using herbal medicines, sometimes resulting in death or injury.
“In Morocco, between 600 and 800 abortions are done every day, but only about 250 are done by doctors, so they are safer, while the rest are taking risks,” Schellekens said.
There was no immediate comment from officials on Thursday, but on Wednesday Interior Minister Mohand Laenser, a secular member of the government led since December by moderate Islamists, said the ship would not be allowed to reach Morocco.
“The organizers have never contacted us to seek permission to visit Morocco,” Laenser told Reuters. “Plus, we are not going to let them in.”
Each year hundreds of single mothers are forced to abandon or give up their babies for adoption because of the stigma linked to abortion and pre-marital pregnancy.
The Moroccan Association Against Clandestine Abortion said in June that the legislation on abortion was disconnected from the social realities of the country and the number of unsafe abortion required a political commitment for a change.
Organisers of an all-gay cruise in June blamed Moroccan officials for the cancellation of what would have been the first visit of its kind to a Muslim country.