Guatemala stops Dutch boat providing abortions

Photo: Women on Waves

Guatemala blocked entry to a Dutch ship run by the Women on Waves pro abortion organisation on Thursday. The country’s army stopped the boat, which is carrying a supply of abortion pills, citing the country’s constitution.

It was placed in military custody, with seven crew members apparently still aboard, after landing at a private pier 120km south of the capital, Women on Waves spokeswoman Leticia Zenevich told Reuters.

The Dutch organisation provides free abortion services for women up to 10 weeks pregnant, taking them beyond the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal.

It offers them an abortion pill, monitors them for several hours, and lands again.

The Guatemalan army said in a statement that it would not allow the organisation to operate due ‘to the constitution regarding the preservation of human life and the laws in effect in our country.’ Local protestors were also filmed at the harbour.

Illegal abortions

In Guatemala, abortion is only legal if a woman’s life is at risk, and Women on Waves claims around 65,000 abortions are performed there illegally each year.

‘Guatemala has been chosen because the laws are very restrictive on the subject of abortion,’ Quetzali Cerezo, director of Women in Equity in the country, was quoted as saying.

This is the first such trip made by the organisation since Morocco blocked a ship from entering a harbour in 2012, Zenevich told Reuters.

The organisation said on its website that it had all the necessary paperwork to be in Guatemalan waters. The authorities are blocking a ‘lawful protest against the state’s restrictions on the Guatemalan women’s right to safe abortion,’ the organisation said.

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