Going to court

The fundamental rights to freedom of movement, information, reunion, expression and manifestation of the ship’s crew, Women on Waves and the Portuguese organisations are violated by the decision of Paulo Portas and we have asked the judge to overturn the decision and allow the ship to enter in the harbour.

At 10.00 in the morning the court hearing starts at the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Coimbra.

The government has called for anti-abortion doctors to serve as medical experts and they are questioned about medical abortions with the use of the abortion pill. However, taking the anti-abortion position of these doctors into consideration and seeing as all forms of abortion are illegal in Portugal, these doctors have little experience and knowledge on the subject. The lawyers of the government claim that the activities of Women on Waves would constitute a threat to public health and public order because the abortion care Women on Waves offers on the ship in international waters would have an effect on Portuguese territory and constitute a crime.

It is almost midnight when finally the judge Dr. Maria Helena Canelas the operating judge of the 6th of September, reads the verdict.
The judge claims that it cannot substitute the decision since the Minister of defence made a discretionary act and it lies on a judgment of opportunity that only the government can make. The judge also rules that there might indeed be a continues criminal act because the abortion services provided by Women on Waves might have a territorial implication. However to have a continues criminal act there should be a criminal act in the first place and that is not the case. Internationally there is consensus that the abortion takes place with the swallowing of the Mifepriston, which is ending the pregnancy. In 85 % of the cases the uterus will empty spontaneously some time after taking Mifepriston, since the pregnancy has stopped. The women take the Mifepriston under Dutch law in international waters, where it is allowed and not a crime. However, to increase the effectiveness of the treatment, the women later use another medicine, Misoprostol, at home. Misoprostol only stimulates the uterus to expel the miscarriage and is also used for that purpose when a woman has a missed spontaneous abortion. This is common medical practice.
Mifepristone is widely used in 30 countries including the United States, Britain, France and many European countries. It is the recommended method of abortion for early pregnancy under seven weeks by the Royal College of Obstetrics.
Women on Waves has official permission of the Dutch minister of health to provide medicinal abortions as described in the Women on Waves protocol.

Unfortunately, the judge’s decision does not refer to any law, national or communitarian, any convention or any juridical principal; and she made no decision about the violation of fundamental rights. The only thing she stated was that fundamental rights are not absolute and that they can be restricted when fundamental interests are at stake. But the court doesn’t base any conclusion on this.

With the verdict it has become clear that the Borndiep will not be able to enter Portuguese waters this time. To still be able to help and inform the thousands of women who seek abortions per year, Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves, announces in the media she will publish a protocol on their website describing what the safest way is of using Misoprostol also known as Cytotec or Arthrotec for women in countries where abortion is illegal and not available.

Dr. Maria Helena Canelas and witness
Dr. Maria Helena Canelas and witness.
Dr. Maria Helena Canelas with Dr. Bernardo Ayala and Dr. Sara Guerreiro
Governement Lawyer: Dr. Bernardo Ayala Govt Lawyer Assistent: Dr. Sara Guerreiro and Judge Dr.Dr. Maria Helena Canelas
Dr. Maria Helena Canelas
Dr. Maria Helena Canelas
courtcase

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