Dutch 'Abortion Boat' Barred From Morocco

Image credit: Maciej Kosycarz/AFP/Getty Images

A Dutch "abortion boat" bound for the Moroccan port of Smir has been blocked from entering the harbor. The campaign created by the Women on Waves group sails to countries where abortion is illegal and was due to arrive in the Moroccan port today to carry out abortions and provide advice to women, but the Moroccan authorities stopped them from docking, sealing the area and citing "military maneuvers" as the reason.

On Wednesday, Morocco's health ministry told the AFP news agency that the ship would not be allowed to operate in the country and called on the authorities to apply the law against the group and the ship.

The group's founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts told the BBC they plan to launch "a surprise" in response but did not elaborate. She said the entire harbor was blocked and no one was being allowed to enter.

Dr. Gunilla Kleiverda, one of the gynecologists for Women on the Waves who is currently in Smir Harbor told ABC News, "of course, we always expect problems, that's part of being involved with Women of the Waves," adding that "the most important thing is to change the law and we make abortion legalized."

According to Kleiverda, the issue of illegal abortion is a "big women's health problem." The group's website highlights this with statistics that show "approximately 600 to 800 women still have an abortion every day. While wealthy women can afford safe abortion access, women of low socio-economic-status must often resort to unsafe methods that can result in morbidity and death… access to safe abortion is fundamentally an issue of social justice. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortion methods cause 13 percent of pregnancy-related deaths."

Women on Waves believe that with the use of a ship, "early medical abortions (till 6 1/2 weeks of pregnancy) can be provided safely, professionally and legally." The group has already succeeded in changing the law in Portugal after undertaking a campaign to legalize abortion. After much publicity, Poland ratified a law allowing women to obtain abortions until the 10th week of pregnancy, two and a half years after they sailed there in 2004.

As for their latest project in Morocco, the group is endeavoring to do the same. Kleiverda told ABC News "we have to figure out if we can stay, the situation is changing every hour. We'll be discussing this with local groups, women's and human rights groups on how to legalize abortion in the country."