Date: October 1, 2012
Source: France 24
Abstract: A Dutch "abortion boat" has set sail for Morocco, its first trip to a Muslim country, to provide abortions to women who are exposed to grave health risks if treated domestically, its organiser said on Monday.
"The ship is on its way. We can't yet disclose the place and time of arrival... We expect it to stay for up to a week." Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of the Dutch non-profit organisation Women on Waves, told AFP by phone.
The group says that, according to figures published by the Moroccan government, between 600 and 800 abortions take place every day in the north African kingdom, where the procedure is illegal and taboo.
"The problem is that only about 200 cases are done properly, by women who have money," the Dutch abortion doctor said, with the rest resorting to dangerous methods because they are unable to afford the expensive treatment.
This leads to the deaths of 78 Moroccan women each year on average, Gomperts claimed, citing statistics provided by the World Health Organisation.
The Dutch organisation says it was "invited" to Morocco by local youth group the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (MALI), to raise support for the legalisation of abortion in the country.
The authorities' response to the initiative remains unknown, with local daily Al-Tajdid, the mouthpiece of Morocco's ruling Islamist party, questioning on Monday whether the government would allow the ship to enter Moroccan waters.
Gomperts admitted that Rabat's reaction was "hard to predict," but she argued that any attempt to block the visit would be an "illegal" intervention in the freedom of travel and the freedom of expression.
She denied it was an inappropriate time for the visit, despite religious sensitivities running high in Muslim countries after violent protests last month against a US-made anti-Islam film and the publication of blasphemous cartoons in France.
"I understand that (the visit) is seen as a provocation by some religious groups. But this is about women's health. It has nothing to do with religion."
Over the past 11
years, a Women on Waves ship has visited Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain,
sparking protests in each country from pro-life groups (France 24, 2012).
Title: Morocco Denies Entry To Dutch "Abortion Ship"
Date: October 4, 2012
Abstract: Morocco blocked a Dutch "abortion ship" from entering one of its harbours on Thursday during a campaign group's first attempt to visit to a Muslim country to raise awareness about safe methods of abortion.
The Women on Waves ship, which already has visited traditionally Roman Catholic countries Spain, Portugal and Ireland at the invitation of local women's groups, had planned to arrive at Smir, northern Morocco, but was denied entry.
"The harbor is totally blocked by warships so no one can get in, and there are a lot of police here," said Marlies Schellekens, a doctor from Women on Waves who had gone on shore.
"We're now working on an emergency plan but we have opened up our hotline so women can call for information about the abortion pill."
The group, which was invited to Morocco by rights group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI), wants to spread awareness on land about the use of pills for a medical abortion and said it would carry out abortions aboard the ship in international waters.
Like in other Muslim countries, abortion is illegal and punishable by up to 20 years in prison under Moroccan law, but hundreds of illegal abortions are carried out daily in clinics or using herbal medicines, sometimes resulting in death or injury.
"In Morocco, between 600 and 800 abortions are done every day, but only about 250 are done by doctors, so they are safer, while the rest are taking risks," Schellekens said.
There was no immediate comment from officials on Thursday, but on Wednesday Interior Minister Mohand Laenser, a secular member of the government led since December by moderate Islamists, said the ship would not be allowed to reach Morocco.
"The organizers have never contacted us to seek permission to visit Morocco," Laenser told Reuters. "Plus, we are not going to let them in."
Each year hundreds of single mothers are forced to abandon or give up their babies for adoption because of the stigma linked to abortion and pre-marital pregnancy.
The Moroccan Association Against Clandestine Abortion said in June that the legislation on abortion was disconnected from the social realities of the country and the number of unsafe abortion required a political commitment for a change.
Organisers of an all-gay cruise in June blamed Moroccan officials for the cancellation of what would have been the first visit of its kind to a Muslim country (Reuters, 2012).