After a four-month-long investigation, Women on Waves has been cleared of charges of breaking strict abortions laws by of performing illegal abortions in Poland and by introducing the abortion pill mifepristone (RU 486) into the country. According to Women on Waves, the prosecutor’s office dismissed the accusations due to a lack of evidence that the Dutch foundation had broke any Polish laws.
According to Women on Waves, the ship affected public opinion in Poland regarding abortion rights. A poll conducted by the Centrum Banania Opinii Spolecznej (the official Polish polling company) showed that 61 percent of Polish people want abortion laws to be liberalized, which was only 44 percent before the ship’s visit to Poland.
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. According to the Polish Federation of Women and Family Planning, because of these restrictions there are as many as 200,000 illegal abortions performed in Poland each year.
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. The Dutch organization provides abortion and reproductive health services to women on a specially equipped ship. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts commissioned the construction of a mobile clinics suitable for placement on a ship that sails to countries where abortion is illegal. By sailing out to international waters, she is able to provide essential reproductive services to women, including non-surgical abortions, contraception, and counseling.