Yesterday, Twitter made it impossible to tweet or link to a particular web address.
The website that Twitter banned wasn’t porn. It wasn’t a website that was racist, that incited hate or that facilitated the trafficking of children. It was not a website with links to terrorism, murder or violence.
It was a website about abortion.
Yesterday, Women on Web, a website dedicated to bringing medical abortions to women across the world could not communicate via Twitter.
Anyone who wanted to spread information about the work of Women on Web could not. More importantly, anyone who wanted to direct a woman to Women on Web’s service was unable to.
Why Twitter decided to censor the site is not clear. They have not responded to Women on Web’s requests for reinstatement or to the hashtag #freewomenonweb, which has been trending in a number of countries.
Women on Web is a website run by Dutch organisation, Women on Waves.
Women on Waves was established in 2001 by a Dutch doctor named, Rebecca Gomperts. The organisation provides a medical abortion service to countries where abortion is illegal, unsafe or not widely available by providing medical abortion services on a boat.
Women on Waves sail Dutch ships to countries where abortion is unavailable, taking pregnant women on board, and then sail into international waters to provide them with the medication to induce a medical abortion. The women are then returned home with a list of instructions and notes on what to expect. If there are any complications, the women can see local doctors without fear of persecution as the medical abortions appear to outsiders as a standard miscarriage.
The medications used to induce a medical abortion, misoprostol and mifepristone (known as RU486 in Australia), are legal in many States in the US and in Europe and are on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.