Women on Waves: “Abortion Ship” Turned away in Morocco

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October 4, 2012; Source: Washington Post (Associated Press)

A small yacht which advertised that it could provide information on abortions and do abortions on board in international waters tried to make it into the harbor at Smir, Morocco yesterday but was reportedly blocked by police and “warships.” In Morocco, abortions are illegal in most cases. The ship, which came complete with a banner and a phone number to an abortion hotline, is sponsored by a Dutch NGO called Women on Waves, which was invited to Morocco by a local youth organization (MALI) advocating for the legalization of abortion there. MALI estimates that there are “between 600 and 800 abortions a day” in Morocco and MALI’s Ibtissame Lachgar says, “We want to legalize abortion, to condemn this law that destroys freedom, that we find criminal.”

Although Women on Waves has done similar trips to Ireland, Poland and Spain, this is its first event in a Muslim country. Moroccan officials did not only not allow the ship into the harbor, where counter-demonstrations were happening on the shore, but they also reportedly sealed the port for “military maneuvers,” disallowing journalists. But the Associated Press reports that Women on Waves anticipated the blockade and stationed the sailboat in the harbor days in advance. No one was charged but officials eventually boarded the yacht and escorted it out of the marina. –Ruth McCambridge