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. sean

    Wow I think the story here is that theres a ship that goes around doing abortions. Who oversees this? What happens if something goes wrong? Who's paying for this? How many of these abortions get follow up to make sure of the woman's emotional needs and wellbeing? Congratulations you've found the loop hole. I don't see any winners here!

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

      The mission is paid for by the charity Women on Waves. They accept donations from individuals via their website.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bluegillonthefly

    Good for Morocco, but they need to do more than block the ship. They need to blow it out of the water.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. A

    How many women would choose to get abortions in a society where they knew their kids would not be allowed to starve to death, or be thrown in prison for selling drugs because there are no other opportunities where they live? Just a thought.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Thomas K

    I would like to see this ship try and do this in Iran. Trying to provoke an open and friendly nation such as Morocco. Besides having lived in Morocco I can say that abortion is "illegal" there. The law over there usually looks the other way on matters like this.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Trish

    Vote for Romney!!!!

    October 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kim

    Every man who believes that abortion should be banned should donate a kidney and some bone marror to save an innocent sick person. If you have done that, you are in a strong moral position to oppose abortion. Otherwise, you are withholding the use of you body which is causing innocent lives to be lost. How can you call abortion murder when you are doing the thing?

    October 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sietze

    @CNN

    "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."

    This suggests that Dutch law allows abortions until 6.5 weeks. That is not true, Dutch law allows abortions until week 24 (5.5 months).

    October 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Trish

    Since when did a human life become an option????

    October 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlotte

      Since when did an amorphous glob of cells become a "human life?" Especially when it will likely get aborted anyway by none other than your fakey "God" magical person. A huge percentage of early pregnancies ends in miscarriage, such that the women don't even know they were pregnant, they just think they had a delayed and commensurately heavier period. Get off your bogus religidiot high horse and quit judging others whose lives and choices are NOYFB.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Trish

    Hi A – who is in charge of the Universe and everything in it – can you prevent your death – bettern bend your knew here on earth to the Living God, because you will certainly being bending that knee in the afterlife to Creator or Heaven and Earth and it would be pleasant for you because you will be cast into the 2nd death – 1st dealth if the body – 2nd death is the soul. Read Revelation.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curly Q

      mystic loon.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • neil480

      hmm being lectured by someone about meeting 'god' in the next life, which is a cheek if that other person does not believe in such fairy stories, whilst at the same time the lecturer seemingly unable to grasp the correct spelling of simple English words.

      Read Revelation you say? I say, go study English first before recommending reading material.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. J

    I love how people turn everything in the world into Obama, politics and terrorism (but if fails, there is always a God). Global warming blame the president if he is not from you side, if he is from your side blame another political party, if it seems too absurd, its terrorism. If all of them fail then bring your choice of God into the picture. But most importantly you should never ever ever ever X 10 express your opinion based on the facts of the matter at hand.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Isma'il

    Why are these people so arrogant? Respect the Sovereignty of Morocco.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • EatYouAlive

      There is no reason not to let them onto their soil. None.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • people are not territory

      Isma'il, those people are respecting the sovereinity of Morocco. They haven't entered the harbor and have no intention of performing any medical procedures within Moroccan jurisdiction. However, the government of Morocco doesn't have lifelong, infinite control over its citizens. If those people wish to travel out of jurisdiction (defined by territory, not by "owning" people), they are free to do so.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JOSH P.

    SO a bunch of Dutch citizens the same Nation that used to go around the world slaughtering Natives,now suddenly care about Moroccan citizens.
    I hope the Moroccans sink that ship.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • responsibility

      Yes, we are all responsible for what other people did more than 200 years ago- NOT. I am responsible for my own behavior. You are responsible for your behavior. I am not responsible for your behavior and you are not responsible for mine. Neither you nor I is responsible for anything anyone did 200 years ago.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curly Q

      Nah, they don't care about the Moroccans, this thing is really a tuna boat and they ran out of bait, need more chum.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      the plan of woman on waves is get you talking about the subject ... and look what happens. The abortion boat it self is on the moment not in Moroc (and never has been)... that was never the plan.

      They just send in a simple rentedyacht , then mentioned to the press (a few days after the ship arrived in harbor) and put some flags on it. (The boat shown on the photo is not in Northern Africa).

      It's a PR campagne and look what is happening. We are all are talking about it.!!! So huge success I guess.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Name*g

    We can all agree this death boat will be rejected

    October 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    Wow! Imagine how many starving women and children they could save if they put that much time, energy, money and passion into a UN feed the children program!!!

    October 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shrinktofit

    "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."

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

    October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
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