Bringing Women’s Rights to International Waters

by: Emily Kirkpatrick

October 8, 2012

Women on Waves is a group of Dutch pro-choice activists who have taken to international waters in order to provide the women of various countries that have illegalized abortion a safe, neutral place to receive medical abortions up to six and a half weeks pregnant as well as information about contraception and reproductive health.

Women on Waves WILD Our World

Today the organization, which over the past eleven years has visited a number of catholic nations with their pro-choice boat, including Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, was blocked from the Morocco port of Smir. Morroco is the first Muslim country the group have been invited to, by the Morrocan youth group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms, in an attempt to aid not only women seeking abortions, but also to provide them with a basic education in sexual health and safety.

According to figures published by the Morrocan government, between 600 and 800 illegal abortions take place in their country everyday, which put the women having them at high risk for serious illness, infection, or death.

Woman on Waves claims that they arrived outside the country with no intentions of actually performing abortions, despite the doctor, gynecologist, and nurse on board, but rather to inform Moroccan woman of the existence of an abortion-inducing drug that is already legally available to them. 

Women on Waves has also set up an international hotline number that allows women in countries that ban them from sexual education to obtain information about contraception and abortion options. Women on Waves, founded by Dutch gynecologist Rebecca Gomperts, began as a reaction to the Arab Spring and the backlash many countries had against women’s right in the aftermath of the revolutions.

Gomperts said in an interview with The Daily Beast, “In all the revolutions that have taken place, in all the changes, women’s right have been ignored. We never see abortion as an isolated issue. It’s part of the fundamental human right of autonomy and sexual freedom.”

As a woman, Gomperts statement really hits home, especially as Election Day approaches and many rights American woman have taken for granted as a given, suddenly hang in the balance. Women’s rights and reproductive safety worldwide should not be something questioned or put up to debate, but basic rights and control over one’s own body that every human being should be equally entitled to.


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