Women on Waves Sparks Renewed Debate on Abortion in Portugal

As reported earlier this week, Women on Waves set sail on Monday for to bring attention to the nation’s restrictive abortion policies. The deputy for Portugal’s Green Party, Isabel Castro, asserted that the ship will show “what cannot be forgotten, a law that is humiliating for women.” In response to the ships departure, Jose Areia de Carvalho, the head of Portugal’s Federation for Life stated that “it would be better for them not to come” because he sees the ship “encouraging the practice of acts that are criminal under Portuguese law,” reports Agence France-Presse.

As the debate between Portuguese officials continues, Women and Waves will carry out their mission off-shore in international waters, legally providing information on abortion, AIDS, and birth control to people during their two week stay in Portugal. In addition, Women on Waves will hand out abortion pills to women who are less than six and half weeks pregnant and have made the decision to terminate their pregnancies, reports Reuters.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, founder of the Women on Waves foundation, is hoping that the ship’s trip to Portugal will help break “the terrible taboo” of abortion in the country, according to Agence France-Presse. Portugal is the only country in the European Union that actively prosecutes women and their doctors for illegal abortion, reports Women on Waves. Women who are found guilty of undergoing an abortion face up to three years in prison, and a person found guilty of performing the operation faces up to eight years.

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Agence France-Presse 8/24/04, 8/23/04; Reuters 8/23/04; Feminist Daily News 8/23/04

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