As Women on Waves finishes its historic trip to Poland, Polish police are investigating the group for distributing the abortion pill mifepristone (RU 486), which is illegal in Poland. However, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves (WOW), said that the group definitely did not violate Polish law and never distributed the pills in Poland. The crew and volunteers with WOW are being questioned about the pills, and Polish police have said they will also be questioning women who boarded the ship to receive sex education classes and medical services. The Polish police obtained the names of the women through customs officials, who collected the passports of all women who boarded the ship. “This is an invasion of their privacy,” said Gomperts.
An unknown woman infiltrated WOW and gave a lengthy interview to Polish Newsweek about the activities on Women on Waves. The group faces a large counterdemonstration today in Poland by anti-abortion activists. 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. WOW provides abortion and reproductive health services to women on a specially equipped ship. Dr. Gomperts 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. 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 who can afford to travel abroad for an abortion will pay as much as $500, the equivalent of more than one months’ pay. With more than 60 percent of women in Poland living under the poverty threshold, this leaves many women with little choice other than an unsafe illegal abortion.
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