Moroccan authorities said Wednesday that a Dutch ship promoting legal abortions is heading toward Morocco, but abortions are illegal in Morocco unless the mother's life is in danger. Therefore, the ship may not reach the port.
The Dutch ship was invited by Women on Waves (WOW), an organization that provides abortions and contraceptives in an attempt to raise awareness where abortion is illegal, BBC News reports.
Over the past 11 years, WOW ships have visited Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The visits sparked anti-abortion protests.
Women on Waves was invited by a Moroccan women's group in their fight to legalize abortion, The AP reports. Abortions are not allowed in Morocco as it a conservative Muslim country, but the group is hoping to raise enough awareness to bring about change.
Its arrival would mark the first time a WOW boat has entered a Muslim country.
"Morrocan law forbids abortion. Moroccan religious identity says it is forbidden and so does Islam. So the government cannot allow this ship to come to Morocco, " lawyer Abdelmalik Zaza told the Al-Tajdid newspaper according to The Raw Story.
Chafik Chraibi, head of an NGO that believes in abortion and seeks to perform legally, even expressed his own views against the ship visiting Morocco.
Chraibi called the initiative "symbolic" as it "defends" the rights of women to make their own choices about what to do with their own bodies."
While he supports the right to choose, Chraibi doesn't support practicing abortion at sea, in international waters. He believes it's a way of "circumventing the law."
Moroccan Minister of Interior Mohend Laensar told The AP that Moroccan officials "hadn't been informed about this boat, and from a security standpoint, it's a boat we don't know or why it is coming, so I don't see what we can do."
Minister of Education Lahcen Daoudi added that any boat coming to Morocco had to honor Morocco's laws.
According to BBC News, WOW is not intending to perform any abortions during its trip to Morocco, but will "promote the idea of safe medical abortion."
WOW has also set up a hotline where Moroccan women can get information on abortion, The AP reports. The hotline also includes information on pharmaceuticals which can be used to perform safe abortions in the privacy of one's home.
Doctor Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves, has said that around 600-800 abortions are performed daily on Moroccan women, The Telegraph reports. Gomperts said that only about 200 abortions are performed properly because those women have money. The others must "resort" to "dangerous methods" because they can't afford the more expensive, safer treatment.
Hannan Idrissi, a member of a Moroccan pro-life group disagrees with Gomperts. She believes that the Moroccan women's group who invited WOW disrespects the" ethics and dignity of Moroccan society," Sky News reports.
The ship is due to arrive at 1300 GMT at Smir, on Morocco's Mediterranean coast, 9News reports.