Morocco bars visit by Dutch abortion rights ship

Thu Oct 4, 2012 4:24pm EDT
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By Souhail Karam and Sara Webb

RABAT/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Morocco on Thursday barred Dutch abortion rights activists from docking their campaign ship to spread awareness about safe abortion methods in a Muslim country that bans the practice.

Women on Waves announced last week its intention to send their ship into the Moroccan port of Smir after visits to traditionally Roman Catholic countries Spain, Portugal and Ireland at the invitation of local women's groups.

The group says it wants to raise awareness about the use of pills for medical abortions and it would carry out terminations of pregnancies aboard its own ship in international waters.

Earlier on Thursday, Marlies Schellekens, a doctor from Women on Waves, said that Smir harbour was "totally blocked by warships so no one can get in", a day after Rabat said the activists would be barred from arriving by sea.

But Moroccan sources later said Women on Waves had actually sent only a yacht into Smir several days ago rather than their usual larger main campaign ship in the apparent expectation that Morocco would not let the group in anyway.

"The yacht has now left Smir to head back home. It was a publicity stunt," an official source said.

"The organisers took everyone for a ride ... The people (in the yacht) stayed aboard and did not complete immigration procedures that would have allowed them to enter Moroccan territory."

Women on Waves had been invited to Morocco by local rights group Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI).   Continued...