Anti-abortion protesters threw red paint and eggs at the Women on Waves (WOW) boat and its supporters yesterday. The small group of male protesters, members of The League of Polish Families political party, called the ship’s crew and volunteers “murderers” while waving Polish flags as the ship pulled into the port at Wladyslawowo, reports the Associated Press. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Director of Law Enforcement Operations, Margie Moore, who has been working with staff and community volunteers in Poland and the Netherlands for several weeks, said, “It was quite scary at times. There was pushing and shoving and throwing of eggs… [It is a] very hostile atmosphere.” Moore also reports that the Catholic Church has been organizing demonstrations against WOW. Despite the protests, Women on Waves received quite a bit of support as it was welcomed with applause by several Polish women’s organizations and other supporters of WOW.
Women on Waves is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands whose mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world. In Poland, access to abortion is extremely restricted. WOW provides abortion and reproductive health services to women on a specially equipped ship. WOW’s founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, has constructed a floating clinic on a ship that sails to countries where abortion is illegal and, by sailing out to international waters, she is able to provide essential reproductive services to women, including non-surgical abortions, contraception, and counseling.
Under the current law in Poland, women are permitted to obtain abortions only when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, when the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the life of the woman, or when there is “heavy, irreversible” damage to the fetus.