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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Abortion ship sails for Portugal
The floating abortion clinic leaves the Netherlands for Portugal on Monday
The ship will dock in staunchly Catholic Portugal for two weeks
A Dutch "abortion ship" has set sail for Portugal, where abortion laws are restrictive.

The group operating the boat says it will dispense advice on birth control and Aids in port - and carry out non-surgical abortions out to sea.

The boat provoked outrage when it docked in Ireland in 2001 and Poland last year, where it was pelted with eggs and tomatoes by protesters.

In Portugal, abortions are only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Women are periodically taken to court for having unwanted pregnancies illegally terminated.


The ship - a white container transformed into a floating gynaecological clinic - has been leased by pro-choice group Women on Waves.

It is staffed by a doctor, gynaecologist and a nurse.

The boat will be able to provide women in the first six weeks of pregnancy with an abortion-inducing pill as long as it sails out into international waters, where Dutch law becomes applicable.

"There exists a terrible taboo around abortion in Portugal and we hope our stay will relaunch the debate," Rebecca Gomperts, the doctor who in 1999 founded Women on Waves, told AFP news agency.

Anti-abortion protesters hold a small symbolic coffin with the name of the Langenort abortion-right ship
The ship sparked angry protests last year when it docked in Poland
Women on Waves are in the middle of a legal battle with the Dutch government over whether it should be allowed to provide abortions in the first three months of pregnancy.

The centre-right Dutch government refused to provide such a permit unless the ship was within 25km (16 miles) of the Dutch capital. It cited concerns that women who experienced complications should be within easy reach of a Dutch hospital.

But the group has appealed the decision. It says a final ruling will be made in three months.

Women on Waves says a woman dies every five minutes somewhere in the world because of illegal or botched abortions.

Figures from the Portuguese health ministry say five women died last year after secret abortions.

The gynaecologist on board the boat, Gunilla Kleiverda, said she expected protests when the boat arrived in staunchly Roman Catholic Portugal.

"The Catholic church is still powerful," said Ms Kleiverda.

Dutch limit abortion ship's work
13 Jul 04  |  Europe
Europe's terms for terminations
02 Jun 02  |  Europe

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