“Women on Waves” bringing abortions performed off shore to Morocco

By Dave Andrusko

Early in September we carried a story about the deadly strategy of Women on Waves, Women on Web, and a local affiliate of  International Planned Parenthood to circumvent pro-life laws in Kenya by use of a hotline—“Call Aunty Jane”–that “shares information about how women can safely have an abortion using misoprostol.” Of course, safe it was not, certainly not for the baby and potentially for the child’s mother as well.

As the story from The Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues explained

“’Aunty Jane’ is not a trained doctor or nurse giving medical advice or a lawyer giving legal advice about an illegal act, but is the name chosen by a group of activist women who take turns answering a hotline in English and Swahili instructing women on how to commit illegal abortion with misoprostol. The hotline’s website links to Women on Web which offers abortion pills online for self-induced abortion to ‘women living in countries where there are no safe abortion services.’”

One of the major points of the PNCIUS account was that such lethal initiatives are spreading. A story that appeared on the Daily Beast today discusses about how the Dutch abortion group Women on Waves has chartered a boat headed toward Morocco.

“When it gets to the coast, two doctors plan to offer Moroccan women medical abortions in international waters,” writes Michelle Goldberg. She adds, without any sense of irony that “The mission says the group’s founder, the Dutch gynecologist Rebecca Gomperts, was inspired by the Arab spring…”

Gomperts “had the idea of creating a floating clinic that would travel around the world, serving women from countries where abortion is banned,” Goldberg writes, drawing from a 2001 New York Times story about Gomperts. “In 2001, her first abortion ship, a fishing boat called the Aurora, sailed for Ireland. Onboard were 20 doses of RU-486, myriad types of birth control, and a freight container converted into a mobile surgical abortion facility.”

According to Goldberg, Gompers met with a setback. “As long as it was in international waters, the boat was supposed to be under Dutch law, but, amid an international outcry, the Dutch justice minister announced that Women on Waves had failed to acquire all the necessary medical licensing.”

Undeterred she has experienced mixed “success” ever since. She sailed to Poland in 2003 “and that time, they were able to dispense 10 or 11 medical abortions onboard.” Failure again–the next year– off Portugal.

Four women were aborted off of Spain in 2008.  “That same year, the group tried to sail to Ecuador, but its boat, the Harmony, was wrecked in a tropical storm,” Goldberg explains. “And that was the last sea campaign, until now.”

At that point in the story Goldberg discusses the hotlines. She writes,

“For the last four years, Women on Waves has been working with women’s groups worldwide to set up hotlines where callers can learn about using Misoprostol to end their pregnancies. Such hotlines are now operating throughout Latin America, as well as in Indonesia and parts of Africa. There are four in Pakistan, for speakers of Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto, and Punjabi. ‘It’s really cheap, but the problem is that women don’t know about it,’ Gomperts says of Misoprostol.”

Again, note the unintended irony:

“Gomperts insists that focusing on the small number of abortions actually done on her boats misses the point. The missions are symbolic, meant to draw attention to the toll of unsafe abortion worldwide.”

What makes abortion unsafe (for women), especially in the developing world is not its absence but its presence, as we have talked about many times in this space. With respect to chemical abortions in particular, PNCIUS had this to say.

“Western pro-abortion activists claim misoprostol–known for producing severe cramping and bleeding–is ‘safe’ for women to use without medical supervision and in remote areas where women do not have access to basic medical care. The report acknowledges that those running the hotlines do not have any medical experience, ‘but have been trained and are experts in the use of misoprostol to safely end an unwanted pregnancy.’ The report also acknowledges challenges hotline operators face ‘to help women identify fake misoprostol and genuine misoprostol’ and the confusion caused by the varying protocols of the abortion drug available online.

“In contrast, medical protocols for women living in western countries often mandate that a physician oversees use of abortion-inducing drugs, ultrasound is   used to confirm the age of the preborn child before such medications are used, and a post abortion exam determines that the abortion was complete and there are no complications. The women targeted by the hotlines often live in remote areas where access to even primary healthcare is limited, and where complications from misoprostol are difficult to treat, thus increasing the risks to their health and safety.”

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