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'Abortion Boat' Escorted From Moroccan Waters

Decoy Ship Publicizes Safe Abortion Information

- Common Dreams staff

A boat carrying activists from the Dutch group Women on Waves was escorted Thursday by Moroccan police from the waters around the port city of Smir.

The Dutch ship 'Langenort' on June 21, 2003. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images) Women on Waves sails to countries where abortion is illegal to provide information and abortions on board.

The organization maintains that although abortion is illegal in Morocco under most circumstances, practitioners can still perform the procedures on board.

But Agence France-Press reported that “the country’s health ministry said that the ship would not be allowed to operate in the country and called on the authorities to apply the law against the group and the ship.”

Moroccan police said the boat would not be allowed into the harbor, and sealed it for "military maneuvers," The Huffington Post reported.

Later on Thursday, however, representatives of Women on Waves said they had previously anchored a "Trojan Horse" boat in the harbor, and that boat sailed, waving banners announcing an information hotline about abortion and attempting to hand out fliers on abortion in Arabic and French, according to the organization.

"Of course, we always expect problems, that's part of being involved with Women on Waves," Dr. Gunilla Kleiverda, one of the gynecologists for Women on Waves, told ABC News from Smir Harbor. "The most important thing is to change the law and we make abortion legalized."

Protesters, many of whom carried graphic pictures and shouted "terrorist" and "assasin," were escorted by police, according to Huffington Post.

Women on Waves has previously traveled to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain to perform abortions. This was the group's first visit to a Muslim country.

According to the WomenOnWaves.org website, 600 to 800 women have an illegal abortion each day in Morocco, and 90 women each year die due to lack of safe abortion services.

Hundreds of women have already called the hotline publicized in Smir Harbor, the site states.

Women's rights activists sail a small boat around a yacht harbor in Smir, northern Morocco on Thursday Oct 4 2012 to raise awareness about safe abortions, despite officials’ efforts to seal the port and anti-abortion protests on land. Organizers had initially said a large ship offering abortion information and services was on its way from the Netherlands on Thursday. In response, police sealed the port for what it called “military maneuvers” and denied journalists access. But in the afternoon, organizers admitted that they already had stationed a sailboat in the port several days ago, fearing that authorities would close the port. And that sailboat took off around the harbor bearing banners. Meanwhile, on land, about 200 protesters targeted the activists from "Women on Waves," the Dutch organization behind the boat. (AP Photo/Paul Schemm).

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