Breaking NewsDutch Abortion Ship

Breaking News Archive 2004


Portugal Prohibits Dutch Abortion Ship From Docking;
Defense Ministry Threatens To Use Force

The operators of the Dutch Women on Waves ship have decided that they will stay outside of Portuguese waters until it is given permission to dock in the country. This comes following an announcement by the Portuguese Defense Ministry that it would use military force to bar the ship from entering its territorial water to provide abortion services and contraception.

The ship offers surgical abortions and chemical aboritons in international waters to sidestep abortion laws and restrictions in some countries. In Portugal abortion is only allowed as a last resort to save the life of the mother or when the pregnancy has resulted from rape. The ship is staffed by a general practitioner, a gynecologist and a nurse, who plan to pick up women at a Portuguese port and take them to international waters.

Nuno Fernandes Thomaz, Portuguese secretary of state for sea affairs, said that the government’s decision is a matter of “legality and morality,” adding, “Using the abortion pill (RU486) is prohibited in Portugal. If they plan to administer it, that means they will bring it (on board). For this reason (the boat) should stay in international waters.” Thomaz said that if the ship “decides to disrespect the orders of the Portuguese government, it will have to get around a navy vessel.”

However, groups organizing the ship’s visit said that it is illegal for the government to block any vessel from a European Union country if the ship has its “papers in order.” Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves, said that the organization will take the Portuguese government to international court over the ban and is planning on ferrying women from Portugal to the abortion ship while it remains in international waters.

09/01/04

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