'Women on Waves', a Dutch pro-abortion group, has used a sailing boat to publicise their stance on abortion. They sailed a yacht around a port in Morocco claiming to be able to give abortions on board and demonstrating for women's rights on abortion. The trip in the harbour of the Mediterranean coastal town of Smir was the abortion rights group's first event in an Arab country.
Women on Waves in harbour in Smir - photo from Seattle Times
The protest was in cooperation with local youth group M.A.L.I. In most Arab countries, including Morocco, abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is in danger. Tunisia is the only country with more liberal abortion laws. According to unofficial estimates, between 600 and 800 women in Morocco undergo an illegal abortion every day. The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide, some 47,000 women die annually as the result of unsafe abortions.
Moroccan police Thursday 'escorted' the small yacht from its waters. They had been carrying banners advertising an information hotline about abortion, which is illegal in most cases in this North African country.
A day earlier, the group had announced in the media that the yacht that can provide 'safe, legal, medical abortions' up until 6.5 weeks of pregnancy was on its way from the Netherlands. Medical professionals have traveled before to European nations to raise awareness; the group's founder said that abortions had been performed aboard ship in international waters off of Poland.
Moroccan officials had said the boat would not be allowed in to the harbor and police sealed the port for what they called 'military maneuvers,' denying journalists access.
But in the afternoon, activists from Women on Waves said they already had stationed the sailing boat in the harbour several days ago, fearing the port would be shut down.
That boat took off around the harbour, but police boarded the Dutch-flagged yacht and escorted it out of the marina. No one was charged.
The group traveled to Ireland in 2001, Poland in 2003 and Spain, and was banned from entering Portugal's waters in 2004.
The yacht was finally allowed to berth in Smir after agreeing that they would not be carrying out abortions while in Moroccan waters.