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. chrissy

    Ty @ scottw! Personally, i would never have an abortion, but im not so stupid that i cant see WHY some would. And if more men would think with the big head instead of the little one there would be less need for abortions! It takes 2 in case some of u 4got

    October 4, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • SMW

      Great comment. Reading so many of these posts I was starting to think we got pregnant all by ourselves.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kim

    who will say evil is not real and that we are not at the end of days here folks its serious after aborting their babies the ship of death is headed to africa. the crew and doctors should be arrested on sight as the enter morrocan territorial waters. and after they will complain about dwindling birth rates and are surprised that immigrants from the middle east and africa are waxing strong in europe because they have babies.GOD SAVE us.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • snowboarder

      if i had a nickel for every time someone erroneously invoked the "end of days" over the past 2000 years, i would be an incredibly wealthy man.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    And you might all wanta consider how many women are coerced into abortion by the very men that impregnated them! I dont believe for one second that this is a *sport activity* by women!

    October 4, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. OsloBoy

    They blocked the harbour with WAR-SHIPS? Let me guess: Either Morocco has a very small navy – or they have sent one or two police boats. It’s not like they’re waging a war here, even if it of course sounds much better for those who are desperate to get some publicity.

    I also like the comment “I am not going to be intimidated by them”. This is the right way to talk: If you go to another country with the expressed intent of doing something illegal – do not let the local police “intimidate you” by telling you to stop breaking the law...

    October 4, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. snowboarder

    abortion should safe, legal and infrequent.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Bethany Claire

      Very well put.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    The more abortions the better. There are too many people on earth and these poor girls are having their lives ruined by having to carry a baby they don't want. There is nothing wrong with abortion – there is something wrong with starvation and environmental destruction caused by over population.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      @Bob, maybe your Mother should have thought about aborting and the World would be a better place now! regretfully it is too late now!

      October 4, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. CarrotCakeMan

    The ONLY alternative to legal, safe abortions is botched back room abortions and butchered women. Clearly, butchered women is what the GOP wants, and what any "anti-abortion" regime wants.

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

      I understand your confusion, since the GOP and fundamentalist Muslims do share many of the same positions, but the GOP is not that influential in Morocco.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      To henry, you are correct. However this is the stance of the gop as well.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • majric

      ONLY?? Did you forget that no abortion is also an option?

      October 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 90 deaths per year

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

    90 per year doesn't even make the top 50 for Morocco. In fact 4,907 Moroccans die each year from diarrhoeal diseases. Too bad the dutch couldn't launch a ship carrying lavs and clean water - they'd save more women. But all the farce isn't about saving people at all.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      Is modern plumbing and clean water agaist Moroccan law? If it was, your post might make sense, but since it isn't, you just sould foolish.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • 90 deaths per year

      So the point is solely to violate the law? Dutch laws, of course, being the platonic ideal?

      October 4, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • "90 deaths per year" is dumb

      Doughnuts is right, you sound really dumb.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • 90 deaths per year

      You're right. I am. It's just when the number of deaths per year is used to justify their actions, it's fair to point out that they can save _many_ more people without violating Moroccan law. But it isn't really about saving lives, is it?

      October 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Foster

    The abortion ship of death and despair brings the ultimate evil and perversion, murder of the innocent life yet unborn and women killing their babies.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • jm

      Perhaps you should educate yourself about women in Moroccan culture before making such ignorant statements.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Deacon Jones

    The ONLY alternative to that ship is NO ABORTION. Take responsibility for what you so. sink the frigging ship.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • jm

      The reply above was meant for you, but also conveniently applies to Foster.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. SupportWOW

    At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether or not the ship docks. What matters is that the message gets out to women that they can terminate a pregnancy of up to 12 weeks with 12 pills of Artotec bought from a pharmacy. That is the aim of this mission. 4 pills of Artotec, dissolved under the tongue for 30 minutes, followed by another 4 pills 3 hours later and again 3 hours after that, will cause an abortion. It's very similar to the method used routinely in worldwide abortion clinics and is much safer than continued pregnancy. The woman only needs to see a doctor if she has a fever for more than 24 hours, has severe pain, or bleeds through more than 2 pads an hour for 2 hours or more, which is identical to what happens in a natural miscarriage. She doesn't have to disclose having taken the medication as the doctor will assume its a miscarriage and give the appropriate treatment, which is the same in either case.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. The Jester

    I find the fact that they want to setup a hot line for women to get instructions on how to do the abortions themselves!!!! Disgusting, immoral, murder, selfish, the list of adjectives goes on.....

    October 4, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      Learn to read you hysterical fool.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jacktheripper

    I bet you two Moroccon dollars that the ship named "Stone them to Death" would not be blocked in the port. What happened to Arab Spring in Morocco?

    October 4, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • "90 deaths per year" is dumb

      Moroccans love their king, there was not much unrest over his 'rule'. Two Dirhams.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JMK

    That this boat exists completely disgusts me. These people are agressively proscelityzing for abortion as if it is a religion. They are the worst kind of "abortion evangelicals." Good for the Moroccans for defending their laws.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Obi Vious

    Tax all US churches, synagogues, mosques NOW. They have been WRONG on almost everything for five thousand years... spreading ignorance and anti-science holybook inerrancy and hatred marketed as love..Common element? Misogyny

    October 4, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
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