What happened in Portugal...

The ship and its crew leave for Portugal on august 23 on the invitation of the Portuguese organization Não te Prives, Youth Action for Peace, UMAR and Club Safe. Before departure, the ship is inspected by the Dutch authorities and gets permission to leave. The medicines on board are sealed by a Dutch notary.

The purpose of the ships visit is to call attention to the consequences of illegal abortion, to give information and sexual health education and to catalyze change of the restrictive abortion law.
Many Portuguese women suffer because of the restrictive abortion laws. An estimated 20.000 to 40.0000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place in Portugal each year. At least 20.000 illegal abortions are performed in Portugal each year. As a result of the restrictive Portuguese abortion laws a Portuguese woman has a 150 times higher risk of dying from an abortion then a woman in the Netherlands. Each year approximately 5000 women are hospitalized with complications and about 2 or 3 women die from unsafe illegal abortion practices in Portugal.

Portugal is the only country within the EU that actively prosecutes women and doctors for illegal abortion. This, despite the adoption of the Lancker report (A5-00223/2002) the European Parliament created in June 2002, which advises to make abortion legal, safe and accessible and calls upon all member states not to prosecute women who have had an illegal abortion. At least 25 women have been prosecuted for having illegal abortions in the past couple of years.

The ship can show another European reality; that women are be treated with dignity and are entitled to receive proper abortion care. The medical staff of Women on Waves has permission from the Dutch government to provide the abortion pill to women with unwanted pregnancy in international waters under Dutch law.

This visit of the Women on Waves ship to Portugal coincides with the Dutch presidency for the European Union. Women on Waves hopes the council of Ministers and the commission will finally discuss this violation of women’s human rights by the restrictive abortion laws in the few European countries Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Malta.

When the ship arrived at Portuguese national waters, the Portuguese minister of defence, Paulo Portas forbids the ship to enter national waters. Even though the ship will not violate any Portuguese, Dutch or international laws with the activities on board, the Minister of Defence claims the ship poses a severe threat to the national security. This in spite of the fact that the ship does not carry any weapons and that none of the crew or volunteers has ever committed or been convicted for a crime. By denying the ship entry to Portuguese waters, the Minister violates all the international and European conventions and international recognized rights.
The minister of defence even sends two war ships to monitor the Borndiep during 24 hours a day during all the time it is drifting in international waters.

When the Portuguese politicians, Francisco Louçã, Jamila Madeira and Odete Santos ask the war ships for permission to enter Portuguese national waters during their visit to the Borndiep, even they are refused entry.
The Dutch minister of Foreign affairs, Bot also acknowledges that the Portuguese have violated the international convention of the law of the seas and friendly request entry of the ship. In the mean time two Dutch parliamentarians, L.van der Laan (D´66 ) and K. Arib (PVDA) especially come to Portugal to support the campaign.
But the Portuguese government does not respond to the pressure of the Dutch government nor of its own Parliament.

On September 6, Women on Waves goes to court. Unfortunately the judge says that she cannot overturn the decision of the minister of defence since he has taken a discretionary decision. In the ruling she does not mention anything about the violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of movement, information, reunion and expression. It is clear that the court is put under a lot of political pressure.
The decision of the judge creates a dangerous precedent. It will also affect other organisations that use ships in their missions such as Greenpeace and doctors without borders. Or next time a gay cruise ship will be denied entry into national waters. Any ship with a message that a government of a country does not like can now be stopped without reason. It is unacceptable that women’s rights can be considered a threat to national security. Women on Waves appeals the court decision and will continue to fight until the injustice has been undone.

After it becomes clear the Borndiep will not be able to enter Portuguese waters this time, Women on Waves decides to use another means to help Portuguese women with unwanted pregnancies and announces in the media it will publish a protocol on its website describing what the safest way is of using Misoprostol. There is a lot of scientific research about the use of Misoprostol only to induce an abortion and it is proven a safe and effective way. After the announcement of the possibility to do an abortion with Misoprostol only, hundreds of desperate Portuguese women contact the Women on Waves hotline to request the protocol. The Misoprostol manual is now available in English and Portuguese but will also be translated in other languages. It is our most visited webpage.

A Portuguese anti-abortion group accuses Rebecca Gomperts for breaking the Portuguese law after she explains on the Portuguese television how an abortion can be done with Misoprostol. The Dutch fundamentalist Christian party SGP steps in to help the Portuguese anti- abortion organisation and asks the Dutch government to take away the license of Women on Waves. But the Dutch state secretary of health, Ross, answers to the question of the SGP that no laws have been broken.

On September 9, the ship returns to the Netherlands where it arrives September 14.

The campaign receives at least 20 hours of television coverage and more than 700 newspapers articles in Portugal. The ship’s visit to Portugal creates news all over the world, from Brazil to Japan, and is covered by CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, Time magazine and International Herald Tribune and numerous other news agencies.

The majority of Portuguese population supports the campaign. According to an opinion poll done by Expresso 64% of the people consider the visit of the ship positive and useful. 66% disagree with the decision of the Portuguese minister of defence to forbid the ship’s entry into Portuguese territorial waters.
An online survey done by Publico shows that 56% of the Portuguese population wants abortion to be legalized immediately. And an additional 7% want it to legalize after the term of this government in 2006.
According to a telephone poll, which was conducted September 14-17 by Diario de Noticias and TSF radio, 79,9% of the people say they support a new referendum on the countries abortion law and 60% say they believe abortion should be decriminalized.

On September 16, the issue is debated in the European Parliament.

Riot in EU

Two days after the ship arrived back in the Netherlands and the treatment…

Opinion polls

As planned the Dutch Women on Waves team flies back home. But since the ship…

Medics for freedom

Specialists, general physicians, nurses and midwives come from all over…

Borndiep heads back home

For the last time the Portuguese shuttle boat visits the Borndiep in…

Rumours of prosecution

The Misoprostol webpage and the medicines Cytotec and Arthrotec are shown all…

Talkshow Teachings: how to induce abortion

On Tuesday morning, Rebecca Gomperts was featured on the Portuguese talkshow…

Live on television

Explaning how to do an abortion on television

Going to court

The fundamental rights to freedom of movement, information, reunion, expression…

Art and Politics

In the morning the ship returns from Spain and again takes its drifting…

More dutchies

The Dutch members of Parliament Lousewies van der Laan from Democrats 66 (D66…

Feed me, Paste me

The Borndiep is out of fuel and running low on drinking water. Once more the…

Small, calm, quiet, hidden

At 1:00AM a Catholic church group gathered before the Figueira da Foz town hall…

Unexpected visitors and action by Dutch Minister

Pressured by the Dutch members of Parliament Bot contacted the Portuguese…

Manifestation in Lisbon

About 250 people protest against the decision of the Portuguese government to…

Real People Speak

Politicians have been making statements left and right, the European Commission…

Politicians denied permission

The Portuguese Parliamentarians, Francisco Louçã from the Portuguese Left Block

What's happening on the internet?

Saturday, 28th of August

Borndiep still in international waters

In an effort to help realize Women on Waves' goals, Juventude Socialista (JS…

F 486 przeciwko RU 486

Zdjęcie F486 Baptista de Andrade , statek wojenny który blokuje drogę Borndiep .


Two Portuguese war ships monitor the movements of the Borndiep during 24 hours…

Entry ship denied

In the afternoon we have an improvised press conference after we hear that the…

Requesting permission to enter the harbor of Figueira da Foz

In the morning Women on Waves visits the harbormaster of Figueira da Foz and…