Backlash over abortion boat ruling

The controversial Dutch abortion boat operated by Women on Waves has been granted a government licence allowing it to carry out abortions in international waters on women who are up to seven weeks pregnant.

The boat, which sails under the Netherlands’ flag so that Dutch laws apply on board, has attracted worldwide publicity, most of it negative, by offering abortions to women in countries where they are illegal. The boat is fully equipped as a clinic and has doctors on board.
Following huge national and international outcry, the Dutch government banned the boat from sailing outside a radius of 25 kms from Amsterdam’s Slotervaart hospital. Women on Waves has been fighting that decision since 2001.
Last year the Council of State concluded that the public health minister at the time, the Christian Democrat (CDA) Clémence Ross, had failed to justify her decision.
The three coalition partners currently in power – Labour, CDA and ChristenUnie (CU) – say they now have no choice but to allow the boat to sail into international waters, reported ANP news agency at the weekend.
But CU MP Esme Wiegman wants to know if this is really the case and whether it is possible to place ‘strict conditions’ on the boat’s operations. And Bas van der Vlies, leader of the fundamentalist Christian SGP party (which does not allow women to become MPs) has warned that he will call new health minister Jet Bussemaker to order during parliamentary questions on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Rebecca Gomperts, one of the women behind Women on Waves, has told ANP that the organisation will go to court to challenge the seven week limit for abortions included in the government’s licence. She wants the boat to have the right to abort foetuses up to 12 weeks.

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