LE SOIR-LES ECHOS, MAP (Morocco), COURRIER DE L’ATLAS (France), BBC AFRIQUE
SMIR - A Dutch boat that provides abortions to women on the high seas has reached the edge of Morocco’s territorial waters, and was being blocked Thursday from further progress toward the North African shore by a warship, according to the AFP.
The NGO “Women on Waves” says it works to “prevent unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies by providing sexual health services including early medical abortions with pills, on board a Dutch ship outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal,” according to its website.
The founder Women on Waves, Rebecca Gomperts, says that 85 women a day die in Morocco as a consequence of illegal abortions—78 a year, according to Courrier de l’Atlas, a French Moroccan website.
Abortion is completely banned by Moroccan law. To get an abortion to save a woman’s life, written permission must be given by the head physician of the province or prefecture. If the abortion is to protect a woman’s health, her husband must agree to it, reports the Moroccan newspaper Le Soir-Les Echos, which estimates that 800 women have illegal abortions every day in the kingdom.
Helping a woman with an abortion is punishable with up to five years in prison, and the woman herself can go to jail for up to two years. To call attention to the situation, the Moroccan group MALI (Alternative Movement for Individual Liberty) invited Women on Waves to the Moroccan port of Smir, reports BBC Afrique.
The Moroccan health ministry says it was not informed of the arrival of the ship, calling upon the authorities to “do what is necessary to make sure the law is observed,” according to the Moroccan news agency MAP.
Women on Waves offers a hotline and website for women in countries where abortion is illegal. Two doctors aboard the ship perform abortions only up to 6 1/2 weeks of a pregnancy, carrying out the procedure in international waters where national laws against abortion do not apply. The ship has already carried out actions in Poland, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, but this is the first time it has sailed to an Islamic country.
Le Soir Les Echos reported Thursday that a source in the Moroccan government spokesman’s office called for the media to ignore the “non-event” in favor of “priority questions.”