Troubled Waters: Women on Waves Faces Many Challenges

NRC Handelsblad has a long article up about changes in laws around abortion in the Netherlands, which is pushing the amazing organization Women on Waves to cancel upcoming boat trips to provide abortions and information to women who cannot get them in their home countries. Rebecca Gomperts, who founded the organization ten years ago, is interviewed in the piece as well and talks about shifting attitudes toward abortion. Women on Waves was founded with the idea of creating a fleet of ships that would sail to countries in which abortion is illegal, transport women in need of abortions to international waters, and then provide safe abortions outside of the reaches of a nation’s restrictions to abortion. This never quite panned out – the financials needed to underwrite such a huge project would be, well, huge. What the organization has done, however, is another really amazing online activist project: Women on Web. Women on Web helps women gain access to medical abortion if they live in countries where such access is restricted. The site has information in Arabic, Spanish, French, Dutch, Polish, and Portuguese. The organization is now being prosecuted for distributing abortion pills off the coast of Spain in October 2008.

Unfortunately, in addition to the shifting Dutch laws, the work of Women on Web is being further restricted by none other than Google. At the beginning of July, my IWHC co-worker Lori Adelman blogged at Feministing about the fact that Google AdWords policy disallows ads for abortion services in over a dozen countries. (we’ve got a sample letter that you can use to complain to Google about this, should you feel so inclined).

Thanks to Linda Mans for the link to the NRC Handelsblad article on Twitter.

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2 comments for “Troubled Waters: Women on Waves Faces Many Challenges

  1. Chabas
    July 28, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I’m from the Netherlands. The whole thing is kind of disturbing. The government kinda quietly without telling anyone took on an issue that they’d said they wouldn’t, and made as little noise about it as they could.

    The good news is that technically, they didn’t change the law – they changed the interpretation of the existing law, and in a way that’s really not supported by the legal discussions the law was based on. I’m holding out hope that the court will blow this one up.

  2. July 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    The Women on Waves boat sailed to Ireland in 2001 but things didn’t turn out quite as planned if I recall correctly.
    Anyway, Women on Web is a really good initiative for women in crisis pregnancies here in Ireland (particularly those who don’t have the means to travel overseas for a termination), however the huge trouble that they are facing now is that Customs know what the packages of the abortion pill look like and when they arrive they are being seized. Following this the woman who has ordered this will receive a threatening letter from the Medical Council and the package won’t be returned to them. Whether some women get their order is basically down to the luck of the draw and who is working Customs that day I think.
    It’s absolutely disgusting that this situation is allowed to continue….

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