The crew of the so-called ‘abortion boat’, The Borndiep, anchored near to Figueira da Foz and refused permission to dock, started to ration the consumption of water on board last week. Shortages prompted crewmembers to decide to head towards Vigo in Spain for refuelling and supplies. But they made it clear that the boat would be back within a couple of days.
Rudi Goperts, a member of the non-governmental organisation that visited the boat, had earlier said that potable water was only sufficient for another day and a half. In spite of difficulties, the pro-abortion association has announced that it is not backing away from its plans to enter Portuguese territorial waters. The president of Women on Waves, Rebecca Gomperts, pledged that the vessel is going to cruise alongside the Portuguese coast “as long as necessary”, even beyond the date of September 12, if the government does not lift the prohibition in place. It has also emerged that the Dutch parliament has asked Portugal to allow the boat to moor. The request was apparently conveyed to the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, António Moreiro, by his Dutch opposite number, but was subsequently declined.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes made it clear that he is not going to amend the country’s strict anti-abortion laws. In a declaration to journalists at the end of his party’s National Council, Lopes said he considered the issue important. But he stressed that he is going to honour the promises that his party made when he took power and when his party formed its coalition. “After the next elections we will have to make a new decision about the issue,” he said. He made it clear that he is receptive to the idea of a debate in parliament.
Recent surveys indicate that Portuguese people are in favour of a softening of legislation. A 1998 referendum endorsed that trend, but the 32 per cent turnout was not enough for the result to be legally binding. Last March, parliament threw out reforms and a call for a new referendum by left-wing parties. Portuguese feminist Cecilia Costa said: “At least three Portuguese women die every year due to botched abortions. Women who go to trial for having or carrying out abortions are humiliated in the media and treated like criminals. This is unacceptable in modern Europe.”
In a separate development, the Lisbon offices of the right-wing CDS-PP party (the PSD’s coalition partner in government) were daubed with pro-abortion slogans at the end of last week. ‘Death to the fascists’ was just one of the messages scrawled in red paint.