The Guatemalan government is detaining a boat carrying members of a Dutch non-profit known as Women on Waves, who traveled to the country with the intention of performing free abortions for Guatemalan women.

Women on Waves brings women who are up to ten weeks pregnant on board the boat and carries them 12 miles into international water where they take the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol, which are more than 90 percent effective for women early in pregnancy. Women are then kept on the boat for a few hours for observation before returning to shore.

This is the first trip Women on Waves has made since their ship was blocked from entering a harbor in Morocco in 2012. The boat and its crew are currently in Guatemalan military custody despite having all the paperwork required to be in Guatemalan waters.

Abortion is illegal in Guatemala except to save the life of the woman.  According to Women on Waves, approximately 65,000 illegal abortions are performed in the country each year, resulting in 21,600 hospitalizations and 660 deaths due to unsafe abortions.

Despite the fact that the United Nations considers legal abortion to be a human right, around the world 50,000 women a year die because they are forced into unsafe abortions, making it one of the leading causes of maternal death.

“Criminalization of abortion and failure to provide adequate access to services for termination of an unwanted pregnancy are forms of discrimination based on sex,” read a 2016 joint statement from UN human rights experts. They continued, “Indeed, it has been demonstrated that countries where access to information and to modern methods of contraception is easily available and where abortion is legal, have the lowest rates of abortion.”

 

Media Resources: Reuters 2/24/17; Dutch News 2/24/17; Women on Waves; UN News Center 9/27/16.

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