An attempt to bring abortions to majority Muslim Morocco  has been scuppered by the Moroccan navy. A controversial Dutch “abortion ship” is being kept at bay while the organisers, Women on Waves, find a way to break the blockade that would free them to operate in international waters.
The Moroccan navy is religiously guarding the Mediterranean harbor as witness sitings have confirmed: “We can see a big warship in front of the harbour,” said Gunilla Kleiverga, a gynaecologist, from her home by the harbour of Smir, east of Tangier.
The ship is mooring up for a non-aggressive, educational mission to teach women how practice “safe legal medical abortions,” rather than offering on the spot surgeries. The crew aboard will be providing advice and some medication to induce debate on legalising the practice in Morocco, where currently abortions are carried out prolifically, underground and dangerously. They have already set up a hotline.
Yesterday, the health ministry clarified that the ship was not authorised to ‘practice’ in Morocco. The Dutch medical sailors will be counting on maritime law that allows them impunity in international waters. “The ministry has never been informed of this event and has not authorised any non-resident party or doctor in Morocco to carry out this medical intervention,” it said.
A spokeswoman for the ship’s pro-choice crusaders intimated plans that it might circumvent the Moroccan embargo by transporting women outside Morocco’s maritime borders before issuing counsel or treatment.
“We are only treating women in international waters. We’re on a Dutch ship, where Dutch law applies. Of course we (will) adhere to Moroccan law, and we’re not going to offer abortions in Morocco,” she added.
Other successful Women on Waves missions - that did not get aborted by national navies- in recent years include, health stops at Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain. These trips caused waves in religiously conservative shores triggering protests from pro-life groups.
Morocco’s Islamic tides bode badly for these Dutch visitors. Many Moroccans - usually a hospitable people - object to what they perceive to be an intrusive ship, with groups intent on legal recourse. “Moroccan law forbids abortion. Moroccan religious identity say it is forbidden and so does Islam. So the government cannot allow this ship to come to Morocco,” lawyer Abdelmalik Zaza was quoted as saying in Al Tajdid, the newspaper of ruling Islamist party the PJD.
Tell us what you think. Is the Dutch abortion ship out of line? Should the ship be kept far from Morocco's shore to protect the feelings of conservative Muslim values vis a vis abortion? Or should ship be free to operate in international waters as per maritime law?