Portuguese Court: European Country Can Ban Dutch Abortion Ship

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 6, 2004

Lisbon, Portugal (LifeNews.com) — A Portuguese court has validated a decision by the western European country’s government to prohibit the Dutch abortion ship from docking there. Operators of the boat want to take Portuguese women out to sea and give them dangerous abortion drugs that have been responsible for the deaths of two women in the last year.

A local court in Coimbra, a town in central Portugal, rejected a motion by pro-abortion groups that claimed the government’s decision violated the rights of Portuguese citizens to travel freely.

The court ruled that the abortion boat may not enter Portuguese waters, but staff from the boat may enter the country to debate abortion. Portugal, a predominantly Catholic country, prohibits abortion unless needed to prevent the death of the mother.

Rebecca Gomperts, the founder and director of Women on Waves, the pro-abortion group that operates the Borndiep, a converted tugboat, denounced the decision.

"The law has forgotten Portuguese women, who are treated like criminals, humiliated and who are forced to put their life and health at risk when we can offer them a sure and dignified alternative," she told the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

However, pro-life groups say Gomperts is putting women at risk by distributing abortion drugs that have claimed the life of teenagers from California and Sweden in the last year.

The RU 486 abortion drugs is a two-part process and the second pill, Cytotec, is a drug normally used to treat ulcers. The maker of the drug has said it should not be used in association with abortions.

"RU 486 has been shown both in studies and anecdotally to be harmful and dangerous to women," Laura Echevarria, a National Right to Life spokeswoman told LifeNews.com. "We think it is shameful that women continue to be exploited for political gains."

The makers of the drug and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said that RU 486 can be fatal if women with ectopic pregnancies use it. At least two women have died as a result of complications associated with use of the abortion drug an ectopic pregnancy.

Officials with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States require abortion practitioners distributing the drug to be able to operate an ultrasound in order to detect an ectopic pregnancy.

There is no word as to whether Gomperts’ group offers ultrasounds to women prior to giving them the abortion pills.

Portuguese officials used two naval vessels to block the Dutch ship from sailing to Portugal after it failed to heed a warning not to sail to the western European country. The Portuguese government said the action was taken to ensure that the country’s pro-life laws were respected.

Operators of the Borndiep had promised to remain in international waters just outside of Portugal, after being denied permission to dock. Then, the next day, the boat headed for port.

A spokesperson for the Portuguese Defense Ministry has said two Portuguese naval vessels will continue to monitor the abortion ship to ensure that the Dutch boat complies with the law.

The Borndiep sailed to Spain over the weekend to refuel and resupply.