Access to the so-called ‘Abortion Boat’ – a Dutch registered ship offering advice and termination-inducing pills to women – cannot be prevented from operating off the coast of Portugal, as long as it remains in international waters, the government has conceded. The Dutch registered boat is currently offshore, near Figueira da Foz, monitored by a navy frigate. But the authorities have made it clear that the boat will not be allowed to enter Portuguese waters.
“Transit in international waters, outside of Portuguese seas, is not subject to conditions of any kind. Nor should it be, since it is administered by the law of the country concerned – in this case Dutch law,” reads a directive from the office of the Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs, Nuno Fernandes Thomaz.
Journalists travelling aboard a tugboat towards the ‘Abortion Boat’ confirmed the presence of the navy ‘escort’. The vessel was also carrying food (bread, water and vegetables) for the crew of the vessel that is planning to moor near the Portuguese coast until September 12. The boat, operated by a group of pro-abortionists, known as Women on Waves, aims to re-launch the abortion debate in this country, traditionally one of the most hostile to the termination of pregnancies in Europe.
The group will give advice on birth control and the AIDS virus in port and perform non-surgical abortions out at sea. It is equipped with a doctor, gynaecologist and a nurse, who are able to provide women in the first six weeks of pregnancy with an abortion-inducing pill – as long as it remains in international waters.
Members of the centre-right PSD governing party coalition expressed full support for the decision not to allow the boat into Portuguese waters. It said the decision was as much “a matter of national sovereignty” as about abortion. But left-wing groups condemned the government’s decision. A delegation from Socialist Youth, headed by its Secretary-General, Pedro Nunes Santos, said it would be boarding the boat.
The group condemned what it described as “the government’s ridiculous decision”, while Ana Drago from the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) said her party expressed its “total repudiation for the government’s stance”. Meanwhile, the police have said that they will ‘identify’ any woman travelling to the boat.