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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Poland acts against abortion ship
The Langenort
The boat arrived on Sunday without receiving permission to dock
Polish authorities have said they are taking legal measures against a controversial Dutch boat which wants to provide family planning advice to local women.

Customs officials are reported to have sealed a stash of abortion pills aboard the ship to keep abortion rights campaigners from illegally distributing them in Poland, where they are banned.

The Langenort, which docked on Sunday in the Baltic port of Wladyslawowo, was met with fierce protests in a country that has one of Europe's toughest anti-abortion legislations.

In Poland, pregnancy can be terminated only if it threatens the woman's health, the foetus is irreparably damaged or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

The pills were sealed during a search on Monday because importing them, distributing them and using them is illegal in Poland, customs spokeswoman Jolanta Twardowska told the Associated Press.

However, prosecutors have said they see no crime if the pills are not distributed in Polish territory.

The ship is crewed by members of the Netherlands-based Women on Waves group who say they plan to offer Polish women advice on contraceptives.

Ireland visit

The group has previously offered RU-486 abortion pills to women after leaving nations with strict anti-abortion laws for international waters.

Several Polish women have contacted the ship, crew member Jeanette Kruseman has said, without giving further details.

People performing or helping with an abortion in circumstances illegal in Poland can face up to three years in prison.

The ship's visit angered Poland's influential Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups that have asked prosecutors to investigate if it violates Poland's law.

In 2001, Women on Waves took another boat to predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland, but called off plans to offer RU-486 following last-minute legal and logistical complications.

The BBC's James Ingham
"Protestors have reacted angrily to the ship's arrival"

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