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. André Kruger

    Anyone who says we should abort babies to control the population should set an example and abort themselves. It is called "suicide" or "HaraKiri". If they are not willing to set such example, but wish to condone the killing of the unborn to the same end, they are hipocrits. Such behaviour should be responded to by execution.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Oh look, another ignorant hypocrit who doesn't know the difference between a zygote and a baby, flapping their arms and yelling about how evil it is to kill baaaaaybeeees while simultaneously calling for the deaths of people. I bet you've even fantasized about shooting people as they walk into a Planned Parenthood. Flaming hypocrits, every one of you.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ROGER

    Does it matter if we butcher them before they are born or after? Seems like the religious people don't mind if we butcher non-believers after they are born.. Just don't touch them before .. Wierd double standard.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Terri

    It's always some guy that yells the loudest about abortion. Until you get a uterus, mind your own business, fundie.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TAK

    Hey Scott, you're supporting an islamic navy over a western ally? Wrap your hypocritical conservative head around that.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    sam, sam, sam,

    I never said I was "pro-life". However, I am anti-abortion. You need to read my earlier response to Andre.

    Scott

    October 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas

    It is important to respect the choices women make with their bodies.

    However, it is also important to respect the culture, religion, and sovereignty of another country. What this Dutch ship is doing is basically thumbing their nose at an entire country because they disagree with Moroccan policies basically saying that their morality is somehow better than those of the Morocco.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let it Be

      Agree with you..........

      October 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shawbrooke

    Performing abortions in the first trimester is a very different situation than performing later abortions, particularly those where the woman has felt the baby move and knows that she is causing a death. Whatever someone feels about abortion, providing them where they are illegal will have international repercussions and is not appropriate, unless to save the life of the mother.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lacy

    Don't breed, Scott.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sam

    Call yourself whatever you like, you're a pro-birth guy...who is apparently ok with murder as long as it's something that's already been born. You're a joke. I have to call poe on this, you're too much of a douche to be real. Was this your creative writing assignment at community college?

    October 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pseudo Intellectual Username

    If I remember correctly, everyone who supports abortion was born.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      True. Your point?

      October 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • André Kruger

      True. They should set an example and retrospectively abort themselves.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Let it Be

    So here's my question....what happens to those aboard if they figure out another way to get into port? Will they be arrested for some reason? The article doesn't say but it does say they are looking for another way in since Smir harbor has been blocked.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. seyedibar

    It's hilarious when people say human life (especially a fetus) is precious. Something can't be precious and unique when there's over 7 billion of that thing. Let's save the sympathy for people that have actually experienced life.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Scott

    Holy cow sam, you need to read the ENTIRE thread before you try to comment. In my response to Frank I clearly stated, "I am against killing INNOCENT life", i.e. murder. Killing another person that is trying to murder another is not murder.

    Scott

    October 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • TDM

      Killing another person that is trying to murder another is not murder? Then what is it? You're on drugs.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Colorado Vet

    I don't understand the Right Wing at all. You don't want abortions yet you are against welfare. What do you want us to do. Have the babies and then leave them on the streets to starve to death? Someone explain that to me, you know, like I'm Scott.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shawbrooke

    No one can predict another person's future. As long as the child is reasonably healthy – and that's a wide definition – any outcomes is possible. There is no way to tell whether or not any mother will become a single parent, or if she is one, whether she will cope beautifully or get married next month. Children born to married religious parents can choose to follow their guidance teachers and end up lonely and alone despite their great careers.

    Predicting the life course of an unborn baby is not possible. Bear in mind that the average teen mom reaches the economic and social achievements of peers raised in homes similar to hers by the time she's 30.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • just wondering

      no one has the right to tell a woman or man what is right for that person, especially a politician

      October 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JanetMermaid

      "just wondering" is right. This is about a woman's right to make decisions about HER body, based on HER beliefs, not the religious beliefs of another. Abortion should NEVER have been brought into law in the first place - it is a MEDICAL issue. All attempts to make it illegal are religious based.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • CW

      Many of us including the vast majority of Moroccans don't think murder is a right, JanetMermaid.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      @JanetMermaid Many people are against abortion for completely scientific and secular reasons. Abortion has its roots in religion in the US, just look at the Unitarian Universalists and their role in legalizing abortion, they were absolutely key.
      The "Lilith Fund", which funds abortions, is based upon Adam's supposed baby-killing first wife.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
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