The women who run this ship call it the “Sea of Change”.
Protesters call it the “Ship of Death”.
Women on Waves is a Dutch organisation founded in 1999, which provides abortion services – on board a ship – to women living in countries with restrictive abortion laws.
WoW has docked in countries all over the globe, from Ireland to Morocco. Once the ship has been docked, women board the boat – and then the ship sails back into international waters.
The reason? Women on Waves operates using a loophole in international law, which says that when a vessel is travelling the seas, the laws of the home country apply. In the Netherlands, abortion is legal up to six-and-a-half weeks into the pregnancy. The abortion that the women undergo on board is a medical abortion, brought on by the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone.
The women who run and staff the ship are passionate about helping women without access to adequate reproductive health services — and committed to letting them control their own bodies. The ship carries RU486, as well as birth control pills and condoms.
Dr Rebecca Gomperts, who founded the organisation, is a Dutch physician and activist. In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, she explained why she thinks it’s so important to provide women with safe access to abortion services.
“Control of people’s lives is the domain of religion—whether it’s moral control, ethical control, or social control… The reality is that whatever religion people are in, they still have abortions.”
Before Gomperts started the project, she worked in a hospital in Africa. During her time there, she says that “there were constantly women coming in, on the verge of shock, infected and bleeding because of botched abortions.”