Morocco navy escorts abortion vessel out of port, group says
The Women on Waves ship Langenort took the organization's campaign to Poland in 2003.
October 4th, 2012
08:30 PM ET

Morocco navy escorts abortion vessel out of port, group says

[Update 10:30 p.m. ET] A ship filled with activists who say they are there to help women receive abortions was escorted out of the Moroccan port of Smir after the government initially blocked the harbor and prevented residents from accessing the vessel.

Abortion is illegal in Morocco, and the country's Health Ministry said in a statement that it had not authorized the vessel's visit or any procedures by nonresident doctors.

The "abortion ship" is run by Women on Waves, which was founded in 1999 by a Dutch doctor to provide abortions to women in countries where the practice is illegal.

The Women on Waves ship takes women into international waters to perform the abortions, which are legal under Dutch law, until 6.5 weeks into the pregnancy.

But authorities in the predominantly Muslim country seemed to effectively block the activists efforts on Thursday.

"The ship was searched, and the captains were informed that they had to leave the harbor," Women on Waves said in a statement. "When asked the reason why, they were informed that although no laws were broken, the ship had to leave Smir."

The ship was then "escorted from the harbor by the navy," though the crew plans to "stay near Morocco" and "strategize their next move."

"I will not be practicing as a gynecologist in Morocco," said Gunilla Kleiverda, a Women on Waves gynecologist aboard the vessel.  "We are not going to perform any abortions within Morocco. We are sailing out with women to international waters where in the international sea the Dutch law applies," she said.

A female member of the group told CNN that she and a number of other demonstrators had been in front of the marina in Smir. She said there was a big, aggressive protest taking place and police were present.

She said police said she was "not authorized" to be there.

"I am not going to be intimidated by them," she told CNN before the phone line dropped.

Women on Waves also advocates the use of a drug called misoprostol, which it says is available legally in Morocco, to perform abortions up to 12 weeks after conception. The group says it is establishing a phone hotline in Morocco for women to get information on how to perform the abortions at home.

Kleiverda said Moroccan women need access to safe abortions. About 90 women die from illegal abortions in the country every year, she said.

The ship has previously taken the campaign to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain, but this is its first attempt to offer abortions for women in an Islamic country.

Women on Waves said on its website that it is looking into alternatives to get the ship into port in Morocco after the Smir harbor was blocked.

CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Jo Shelley and journalist Aida Alami contributed to this report.

[Original post 10:48 a.m. ET] The government of Morocco has closed the port of Smir and is blocking the harbor with warships to prevent the entry of a Dutch "abortion ship" to the Islamic country, the organization running the ship said Thursday.

Abortion is illegal in Morocco, and the country's Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it had not authorized the vessel's visit or any procedures by nonresident doctors.

The abortion ship is run by Women on Waves, which was founded in 1999 by a Dutch doctor to provide abortions to women in countries where the practice is illegal.

Women on Waves doctor Marlies Schellekens told CNN that she and about 10 other members of her group and Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms, the Moroccan activist group that invited the abortion ship to Morocco, are trying to make their way to the harbor in Smir.

The main entrance has been blocked by police; a female Moroccan lawyer representing the group is trying to negotiate with officers to let the group enter, Schellekens said. Dutch lawmaker Liesbeth van Tongeren is also with the group, she said.

The abortion ship has not yet tried to enter the port, she said.

The Women on Waves ship takes women into international waters to perform the abortions, which are legal under Dutch law, until 6.5 weeks into the pregnancy.

Gunilla Kleiverda, a Women on Waves gynecologist aboard the vessel, stressed that point in an interview with CNN on Thursday.

“I will not be practicing as a gynecologist in Morocco," Kleiverda said.

“We are not going to perform any abortions within Morocco. We are sailing out with women to international waters where in the international sea the Dutch law applies," she said.

Women on Waves also advocates the use of a drug called misoprostol, which it says is available legally in Morocco, to perform abortions up to 12 weeks after conception. The group says it is establishing a phone hotline in Morocco for women to get information on how to perform the abortions at home.

Kleiverda said Moroccan women need access to safe abortions. About 90 women die from illegal abortions in the country every year, she said.

The ship has previously taken the campaign to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain, but this is its first attempt to offer abortions in an Islamic country.

Women on Waves said on its website that it is looking into alternatives to get the ship into port in Morocco after the Smir harbor was blocked.

CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Jo Shelley and journalist Aida Alami contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Abortion • Morocco • Netherlands
soundoff (555 Responses)
  1. Martina

    Some of those comments display so much ignorance. Ever considered that birth control may NOT be as easily available to women in certain countries?? And the right-wing approach of telling women to "keep your legs closed" might also not work in those very same countries. Get a clue, people. This is not the US or Western Europe we're talking about.

    October 5, 2012 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. citizen

    Let me guess. These are the same ppl who are all about saving the whales. Save the whales, kill the babies. This article makes me want to vomit.

    October 5, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
    • merlinfire

      Ah, baby killing. Such a high calling, am I right?

      October 5, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
    • yang

      actually, considering the fact that whale populations are in serious decline, with quite a few species on the verge of extinction, and that the human population is rapidly on the rise (7 billion, 70 million and counting) with many children suffering in poverty and neglect, i feel more sickened by your intimation that wishing to save whales is somehow reprehensible.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      I actually agree with Yang here.

      We really don't need more children right now, especially not children that are going to grow up in poverty. I'd rather the pregnancy end painlessly than the child have to endure poverty and oppression their entire lives.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Cait

      So would the same be said if somehow whales became overpopulated? Should we take up killing them to "save them from suffering?" I think it's a convenient excuse for humans. If you dont want a child to go through suffering, maybe try adoption. There are many, many well off couples that are sterile and would love to shower any child with affection and a comfortable life. It seems more often, though, to just be reactionary and say, "get rid of it permanently!" It makes me sad =(.

      October 6, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Sallizar

      actually we do kill animals when they get too populated its why there are hunting seasons. where did you grow up, thats pretty common knowledge

      October 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jonline

    Warships. Really? Sounds like the Muslim world has the same approach to abortion reduction as the Right Wing Christian world.

    October 5, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
    • brian028

      I have personally been to Smir port and can tell you it is a base for coastal patrol boats used for stopping smuggling in the straights of Gibralter. These warships this article trumps about are simple patrol boats. Really nothing in comparison to what this article eludes to. Besides that if the Moroccans or any other nation for that matter says a foreign vessel is not permitted then they have every right to not allow them in. At least they didn't do what the Israeli's did. Moroccans are a civil people and their laws should be respected.

      October 5, 2012 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
    • SentTheWave

      You seem to have made a typo! You said "Muslims" instead of "Moroccans." Easy mistake to make if you're a moron.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. ReasonablePerson88

    Wherever abortion is illegal it is a law that targets the poor and saddles them with unwanted children for life – just what the world needs. Think the rich can't get on a plane and get an abortion in a modern facility in another country where it's legal?

    October 5, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Randy

    i am against abortion and this practice must never be tolerated in any country. there is no such thing as over population, the world is big enough for everybody but because of politics and greed among world leaders, many people from poor countries suffer. There is enough food for everybody if only those countries who have abundance would share>

    October 5, 2012 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      I'm not really concerned with a lack of food as much as other natural resources. If we keep growing at the rate we are, we're just going to continue to use our natural resources until they are depleted, and then the entire world suffers.

      October 5, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Shane

    Please tell me you're just trolling. What does the man have to do to prove that he was born in the US to you people?

    October 5, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. commonsensedispenser

    If more women used their brains, opened their hearts, and closed their legs we wouldn't have these problems.

    October 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      There are many societies, where it is impossible to "Keep your legs together" as a method for birth control. If you would try
      "Walking a mile in these women's shoes" instead of pontificating from anonymous blogs with absolutely no concept of the norms in these social groups. No doesn't mean no in most of the world. Man cannot be stopped from having his way with his wife. The more sons the better....the more girls, more dowries.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RobK

    Why should the mother and her doctor have the power of life and death over the baby? Where is the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the baby? Where is their freedom of choice? It is sad that people derive so much happiness from killing babies that they travel halfway around the world, facing all sorts of hardships, just to carry out that goal.

    October 5, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. RobK

    Killing a baby is much more significant than cutting one's hair or getting a tattoo or a piercing. It's not just about a woman controlling her body, but also taking the life of another human being. Which is more important?

    October 5, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. YoursIsNoDisgrace

    American Women:
    Welcome to your future is Mitt wins.
    Take it to the bank.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • B

      I sure hope so if he wins. It would be wonderful to stop the murder of millions of innocent babies.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • cutedog2

      I love the liberal fear monger. If abortion has not been overturned in the US by now, mark my words it is here to stay. Calm down.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Denis Renaud

      We can only hope so. Mitt's election will undoubtedly save the lives of many of our future leaders, scientists, and statesman. A vote for Obama is a vote for mudering some of your children so you can have a better life. The insanity of murdering your children for their benefit is obvious to anyone but air-headed narcissisic liberals.

      October 6, 2012 at 4:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. B

    Hopefully the boat will sink to the bottom of the ocean along with the baby butchers on board.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. B

    If you all are so interested in controlling the world's population, how about trying this tactic instead of murdering babies. Try waiting until you are married and can afford to have children before diving into bed with a making a child. Hmmm, novel idea.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Half this country lives below the poverty line so now only people with money can have babies? Republicans don't want abortions but don't want to pay to help the mothers either. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Find funding for taking care of these millions of aborted babies and i'll agree to no abortions. To each their own why can't people just mind their own business what you do with your life is your business. Republicans only believe that when the outcome of it favors them.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Larry Thompson

    Interesting how they think their humanist religion is supreme over national sovereignty.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. neil480

    If this abortion ship is breaking the law of Morocco then it should not be allowed to dock.

    That being said, I support the womans right to choose to have an abortion providing she has been sufficiently educated in the procedure, the fetus has developed only up to a certain point (for example UK law), the after (negative) effects have been and the alternative options post birth of the baby have been discussed.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fausto Miro

    With Romney nobody is safe, not even Big Bird! The Corporate Raider is coming!

    October 5, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
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