Guatemala Seizes Dutch Ship Offering Free Abortions Off Its Coast

The group is made up of a team of activists and doctors from around the world, who planned to operate in Guatemala for five days and transport women in a dinghy to the "abortion boat" located 12 miles off the country's mainland.

Guatemala's army detained a boat carrying a supply of abortion pills on Thursday and prevented it from picking up women seeking to end their pregnancies, saying the move was prohibited by the country's constitution.

The Guatemalan military said on Thursday that it had sent one its vessels to intercept a Dutch "abortion ship" in worldwide waters just off the country's coast.

The procedure, also known as a medication abortion, combines two medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol, to end a pregnancy.

The Guatemalan army seized a ship offering free abortions off its coast Wednesday, on orders from the country's president.

Women are given an abortion pill and are kept under observation for a few hours after taking the pill. It is more than 90 percent effective for women up to 10 weeks pregnant.

Guatemala Seizes Dutch Ship Offering Free Abortions Off Its Coast

The group has pledged to offer abortions in worldwide waters just off Guatemala's coast over the next five days. According to the Guatemalan Government, however, the pro-abortion organization misled authorities by claiming to be tourists, thus attempting to enter the country under false pretenses.

Officials are preventing activists from disembarking from the ship, and women will not be allowed to board the boat, reports say. On top of this, crowds of protesters from Christian groups were at the ready to block their path, and even broke up a small press conference the group tried to hold to explain their mission.

"Why don't you go to the Netherlands to kill children?" yelled a Guatemalan grandmother at the ship's crew.

In past years, a Women on Waves ship has also visited Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain, prompting protests by pro-life groups in each country. "As the Catholic Church, it seems very offensive that this entity comes to make this abortion practice - that is ultimately practicing murder - they call the reproductive human rights of women".

Women on Waves argued on Thursday that "especially at the dawn of the Zika crisis, access to safe abortion is fundamentally an issue of social justice".

  • Joanne Flowers