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The BBC's health correspondent Karen Allen
"Protestors made it clear that the ship is not welcomed"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 June, 2001, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
'Abortion ship' activists back down
Aurora crew
Women on Waves: 'Overwhelmed by demand'
Activists who sailed into Dublin port aboard an "abortion ship" have said they will not carry out abortions during their visit to Ireland.

Members of the Dutch Women on Waves Foundation arrived in Dublin on Thursday on the Aurora, which carries an operating theatre within a converted container attached to its deck.

The [legal] complications happened at the last moment and we deeply deeply regret that this has happened

Cathleen O'Neill
A spokeswoman for the group, Cathleen O'Neill, said they were forced to abandon their plans primarily because they had been "overwhelmed by the number of Irish women seeking the service" and could not meet the demand.

Ms O'Neill also said unexpected complications with the Dutch law prevented them from carrying out abortions.

But Women on Waves founder Rebecca Gompert told reporters she dismissed the licence issue as "a technicality which has been turned into a political issue."

The Amsterdam-based foundation had planned to offer terminations to women on their converted fishing trawler in international waters, 19 km (12 miles) off the Irish coast.

Abortion fund

The Dutch pro-choice campaigners were welcomed by supporters when their vessel docked on Thursday.

Abortion clinic
The clinic has been set up in a shipping container

Pro-life groups described the visit as a stunt but did not hold an expected protest.

It is illegal for women in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland to have an abortion except in cases where the pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother.

More than 6,000 women travel to the UK from Ireland each year for terminations.

Women on Waves said they had been contacted by 80 women wanting abortions.

These people should not have been allowed in - it is a publicity stunt

Peter McCormack, pro-life campaigner
"We will be in touch with the women who have been in touch with us over the last few days and we will enable and support them to access services elsewhere," said Ms O'Neill.

"We are opening a fund to ensure that these 80 women who have called us in the last few days are supported because we don't want to be part of the hypocrisy that already exists in Ireland."


Irish pro-life campaigner Peter McCormack boarded the Aurora in protest at its presence in the port. He carried a banner which read: "The Irish people in this country have voted against abortion".

Maria Davin:
Maria Davin: "This is not contributing to the debate"

Mr McCormack warned of more protests to come.

"These people should not have been allowed in. It is just not right. It is a publicity stunt."

Maria Davin, a spokeswoman for the Irish Pro-Life campaign, also dismissed the ship's visit as a stunt they would try to ignore.

She said: "The Irish people will be getting on with their normal lives. We see this as mainly a publicity stunt."

She added: "There is already a debate under way in Ireland on the issue, there has been for a number of years, and we see Women on Waves as a distraction from that. Any debate is helpful but raising hysteria is not."

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See also:

27 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Bishop calls for abortion referendum
16 May 01 | Americas
House backs Bush on abortion
05 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ireland
30 Jun 99 | World population
Viewpoints: Population control
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