Women on Waves

This news is a few months old, and I must apologise to readers AD and H who separately sent this in some time ago – none of us have had a chance to put this up. However, it’s well worth reporting. Not least because I hadn’t heard of Women on Waves until now, and they’re pretty cool. Women on Waves is a Dutch human rights organisation, whose aim is to bring reproductive choice to women in countries where it is illegal. They provide contraception, reproductive advice, and pills – which if taken in the earlier stages of pregnancy – induce a miscarriage. They operate from a boat that contains a mobile clinic. Interested women can board the boat, which then sails into international waters. The women are then bound by Dutch law, since they are aboard a Dutch vessel. The organisation was started by a Dutch doctor, Rebecca Gomperts, in 1999. You can read more about it here.

Sadly, the Dutch cabinet set new regulations earlier this year which mean Women on Waves can no longer carry on working. They ruled that the abortion pills can only be handed out at a registered clinic, and the boat is not registered. Dr. Gomperts blames fundamentalist elements in the Dutch government – “It is the result of the Christian government that has been in place now for some years. What we see in the Netherlands is a backlash on a lot of medical and ethical issues. Actually, there’s quite a fundamentalist Christian party [the Christian Union] taking part in the government now”. The recent Dutch ruling goes against World Health Organisation guidelines, which state that abortion pills can be provided by a doctor, nurse, or midwife, and no special clinic is needed – only a consultation room. The Radio Netherlands article is here.

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