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. Marie

    Do not murder a baby. Abortion is murder. You are killing another living person.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dhulfiqar

    Law is the law - and Morocco needs to curb illegal abortions within its borders.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • AngieS

      The "law" in Morocco is made by MEN.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Whether the laws were made by men or not, it's still Morrocco and they can do whatever they please. Even if we disagree with the law, they still have a right to write their own laws and enforce them.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      Hey AngieS...the Laws are Made by Men everyone even in your dam@n Country!

      October 4, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      not happening within the borders of Morocco, only in international waters. reading comprehension always helps when arguing a point...

      October 4, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Except that it's not within it's borders...

      October 4, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Dhulfiqar

      @guest Sometimes you have to knowledge beyond what the writer writes in an article. There are illegal abortions occurring within Morocco by doctors or pseudo-doctors within inept medical equipment.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TDM

      They sure do need to curb illegal abortions...by making them legal. Duh.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. free w.o.w

    its the right of any one person to do as one wishes to ones body. not matter what that you or i may think.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • carpedieum

      Last I checked suicide is still illegal in the US.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      illegall only if you fail.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. mistamista

    THANK YOU "H". I'm a like-minded human being who understands that life is a gift, but should NOT become a curse. To many, pregnancy is a symbol of their shared love, but often it's a mistake that bears down on us all. FREEDOM is the best choice that a person can make. The freedom to choose how you live is in everyone's own hands...as it should be.

    For the ignorant people who cry "murder", please sit back and watch the news. Soldiers are doing the dirty work of an abortion doctor without the benefit of conscience on their side. One bullet = one death. When I hear a person damn the idea of the death penalty and soldiers killing in the false pursuit of safety...that's the day that I'll stop to think about why I cannot use my own mind to decide for myself.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ann

    Thank you for the phone number H. I will be calling the number to see where to make a donation.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. MiicheleIsHot

    It's so nice to know that nearly 50% of Americans agree with Muslim law on abortion. As soon as any religion is used as the basis of law, we are doomed.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Christianity is already used for our laws in the US. Why do you think this comment section is filled with people saying abortion is murder, and valuing the life of something that hasn't even developed lungs, over the life the mother?

      October 4, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. k

    Im not agreeing or disagreeing on any comments, but these "Women on Waves" are gonna get themselves killed, the protests in other countries seem to get alot more violent and fatal for even innocent bystanders.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. joe driver

    Personally I am against abortions. My first wife had our second child aborted against my wishes. A rift that never healed. I am a biologist first a religious person second. So life is precious to me. I think those who perform any procedure that is illegal and results in death should face a death penalty. These people that try to invade a sovereign country to do such things against the countries wishes should simply be sunk. Inform them to either leave and never return or face Davy Jones. Then if they enter the countries waters, seize the vessel, arrest those aboard, then sink the vessel after gathering evidence.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Except that it's not illegal to dock at a port and it's not illegal to perform an abortion in international waters.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Also lol @ your second child and the concept of it being "against your wishes"

      October 4, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      They have the right to block whoever they want from docking in their ports. They have a right to arrest anyone who leaves that ship for any reason. If the women go on the ship, get their abortions and come home, they could be arrested and put in jail for a long time and if you think for a second they won't you're too naive.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      And no one would be forcing the women to board. Perhaps they are only curious! The men in charge know that if that ship docks, there WILL be women wanting to board. They are very afraid, evidently.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • OsloBoy

      I don’t think the “men are afraid”. The police are just doing their job which is to prevent people from breaking the law of the nation. If the laws should be changed it must be done by the parliament and not because some police officers think it is OK for that ship to dock.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      It's obvious from your statement that you are a religious person first, and a biologist second.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rommic

    Yes, so that the cycle of dependency can continue...

    October 4, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Abort, abort

    As backwards as some might think Morocco is, it's still a soverign state. If they don't want to allow a ship to dock in their harbors, they have that right.

    If they want to arrest any woman who goes on this ship, once again (as backwards as it might sound), they have that right.

    Remember, each country has the ability to enact their own laws however they want.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. D'ahhhhh

    You clearly care about human life

    October 4, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. chris

    and how many future human beings die from abortions every year.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Not as many as starvation and war

      October 4, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      Far less than the number that are lost naturally through failure of the blastula to implant, or from spontaneous miscarriage.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Daremonai

      None.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ceilo

      They're not future human beings if they're aborted...

      October 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sandra Fluke

    Do they vacuum the fetus out in that trailer shown on the back of the tugboat? How do the women get to the tugboat, like on a rowboat or fishing boat? What do they do with the unwanted tissue? Chum the water for sharks? I think it's great the dutch are so progressive they have reproductive health tugboats. The government needs to run one of those in America, for free.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • maryindy

      Ignorant. Did you even read the article? This is for early-stage, way early, in the first half of the first trimester. It's done with a drug. I know, you're one of those who believe millions of women are aborting full-term babies.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ted

    People are mental. What's next the Blasphemy armada.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. Josh

    7 Billion and counting. Women don´t decide by coinflip about their and them childrens future. Who believes they do, has no idea about what an Abortion means to a woman. And if you take a look at it, a lot of women seem to be desperate enough to try even less safe methods. This leads to questions of sociological dimension.
    Why is Arab Spring happening? Is it about religion in the first place? Surely not. The Gap between the West and a number of emerging countries on one side and the Arab States on the other is getting wider by the Day, and how so- the people in the Arab World learn everyday via internet. It is to some extent similar to the fall of the Iron curtain in the 1980´s- 1990´s. Remember how those Countries looked in those Day´s. I have never heard about a person loving to be poor, malnourished and exploited. Okay there´s always some nutcases around, but average people? No, for sure not.
    But to be kind of self standing, able to make ends meet, that´s what everyone I know wants to achieve and continue. And who wouldn´t? To be depending is frustrating enough, being told that "you" don´t want to change that, is so insulting, it makes my neck getting thick. And the lifer´s are tying yet another child to women, who already can´t support the ones they have. Really I don´t understand them.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • CPERRY

      Could you please summerize your posting into something I can understand!

      October 4, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
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