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<nettime> women on waves: call for support and newsletter
geert lovink on Thu, 30 Aug 2001 21:32:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> women on waves: call for support and newsletter

from: "Women on Waves Foundation" <info {AT} womenonwaves.org>
sent: Thursday, August 30, 2001 6:09 PM


Dear friends, colleagues, supporters,

The Women on Waves Foundation urgently needs your support.
Women on Waves did a pilot project in Ireland last June. We succeed in
getting the abortion situation Ireland on the political agenda in
Ireland itself and we got media coverage all over the world. The pro
active pro choice approach generated an unprecedented international
discussion and reenergized many parts of the pro choice movement.
For more information on the pilot project and Women on Waves please
visit our website . A very comprehensive and in depth article about the
pilot project appeared in the New York Times magazine that you can read
on line http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/magazine/26ABORTION.html
and the following newsletter.

Meanwhile we are in the middle of a process aimed at establishing a
sound legal structure for the future of Women on Waves. In this respect
all depends on the political goodwill we will be able to generate since
there are no medical or juridical arguments to stop Women on Waves.
Women on Waves works according to high medical standards and the
treatment room also complies with all current standards. Women on Waves
wants to help women in need and to generate attention to the fact that
80.000 women are dying each year as a result of unsafe and illegal
abortions. Women on Waves considers this a medical scandal since
abortion is a simple and safe procedure in itself, and a violation of
the human rights of women.

This very moment, we need to show the Dutch government that there is
substantial support for Women on Waves all over the world. We therefore
ask you to help us capitalize the support we got from individuals,
groups and organizations all over the world. This can be done in the
form of letters, emails or faxes to the Dutch minister of Health, mrs.
E. Borst with copies to the members of parliament.

We expect a new round of political discussion and decision making on
Women on Waves to take place in the first half of October and we
therefore ask you to get us as much support as you can generate before
the end of September. Women on Waves will deliver the mail to the
Ministry (and the media) in the beginning of October.

Please forward this email to all appropriate others.

Following is an example of a letter that can be send and information on
Women on Waves:


To the Dutch minister of health, and the members of the Dutch Parliament

Every year 20 million abortions are done in illegal and unsafe
circumstances causing the death of a woman every five minutes.  Abortion
is still illegal in large parts of the world, such as South -America,
Africa, Asia. But even in countries were abortion is legal, this right
of women is under a constant threat. Illegal abortion is thus a global
issue affecting the health, lives and rights of women and their families
all over the world. We believe that this 'global tragedy' deserves
worldwide attention and Women on Waves has been able to achieve that.
We therefor ask you to ensure that Women on Waves will be able to
continue their activities.

Please feel free to change and add any text you feel is appropriate,
print it on your letterhead paper and send it to us.

The Women on Waves Foundation
P.O.Box 15683
1001 ND , Amsterdam
The Netherlands.
Email: info {AT} womenonwaves.nl
Fax: +31-20-772 3173



Last June Women on Waves has undertaken its first project in Ireland and
implemented a two-week campaign; below follows our report on this trip.

The pilot project carried out in Ireland was the first activity of the
Women on Waves Foundation with the aim to re-energize efforts to
liberalize the abortion law there; highlight the hypocrisy of the
situation as exists in Ireland; to build coalitions; and to test the
feasibility of the ship as a reproductive health clinic. Women on Waves
was invited by the Dublin Abortion Rights Group and the Cork Women's
Right to Choose Group. A special Women on Waves Ireland division was
established to welcome the ship and it grew into an organization with
more than 100 volunteers.

We also received support from other Irish organizations as the Family
Planning Association of Ireland, the Rape Crisis Network in Dublin,
Abortion Reform and from international organizations such as Interights,
Catholics for a Free Choice, Feminist Majority Foundation, Center for
Reproductive Law and Policy, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights.
The project was supported by numerous well-known Irish writers and
artists such as Roddy Doyle, Marcey Dorcey, Theo Dorgan, Colm Toibin,
Conal Creedon, Paula Meehan, Ailbhe Smyth, Evelyn Conlon, Puiline
Cummins, Mick O'Kelly, Louise Walsh, Mebd Ruane and Marion Keyes.

A mobile gynecological unit was designed and build by the well-known
artist Joep van Lieshout. This world's first mobile gynecological
treatment-room has become a state of the art medical facility with its
own generator and water supply that can function fully autonomous. The
intake/restroom and treatment-room are separate and there is also a

The treatment-room was placed on a chartered ship, the Aurora, and at
June 11 Th we sailed with our almost all female crew to Ireland. To
insure the security of the ship and its crew, the Feminist Majority
Foundation (FMF) donated it's time and people. First they trained the
volunteers in Dublin and Cork and during the ship's visit they took care
of all the security issues.

The ship and treatment-room were outfitted to provide the abortion pill
outside territorial waters, where Dutch law applies on board a Dutch
ship. Although our Irish partners did not think any woman would request
the abortion-services as they assumed that Irish women could easily
travel to England, we had 20 abortion pills on board in case some women
would turn up anyway. Most tragically we received 300 calls from women
requesting abortion services upon arrival and we did not have nearly
enough Mifepristone pills to meet this demand.  Even more unfortunate we
have not been able to provide any abortion pill at all due to last
minute complications with licenses in both the Netherlands and Ireland.
Our medical staff that answered the calls gave all the necessary
information about clinics and flight to England and the Netherlands,
although this is illegal under Irish law according to the Information
act. Where necessary we also tried to give financial help.

Although we were not able to provide the abortion pill, still more than
250 women visited the ship for counseling and to obtain contraceptives
and the Morning after pill (which is also not registered in Ireland)
furthermore a full program had been organized on board the ship. The
medical, legal, writers and artists workshops were all very well
attended.  At the medical workshop about 20 physicians decided to start
a "medical professionals for choice" organization.  During all the
workshops the ship was used as a site for exchange of information and
expertise and as a platform to create dialogue, reflection and debate.

The sailing of the 'Aurora" created front-page news all over the world
from Japan to Australia, South America to China and was covered by BBC
Worldnews, CNN, ABC, NBC and numerous other news agencies. The September
issue of the American ELLE and the New York Times Magazine of August 26
covered the project with long feature stories. Three documentaries were

The project thus managed to draw worldwide attention for the issue of
illegal and unsafe abortion and the situation in Ireland specifically.
We have been able to make the real problem and need for legal abortion
services within Ireland visible. The enormous amount of phone-calls we
received indicated that there is an urgent necessity for an easy
available, non-judgmental hotline where people can get information about
abortion services. Even the long-term pro-choice activists did not have
any idea about the reality behind the lack of access to abortion within
Ireland, the extensive class-problem and the impact of this form of
discrimination against refugees and women living in rural areas without
access to information. The project has created international and
national pro-choice coalitions. By showing an original, young and
activist pro-choice movement we have created new hope amongst pro-choice
activists worldwide as proved by the numerous of invitations we received
from women's groups all over the world.

To document the trip to Ireland we decided to make a little book. The
aim is to make an Internal production for external inspiration. It will
be a critical report on the preparations and the pilot project self with
a lot of photo's.  It will not be for commercial use (not available in
bookstores). We want to make a book that will inspire, create commitment
and to learn from the process we went through. Hopefully if will be
printed this November.

We are now working hard to solve the complications with the Dutch law.
In the mean time we would like to develop a program in countries where
abortion is legal but largely unavailable. As the treatment-room is
ready to go and can also travel by truck we want to drive the
treatment-room to such a country in Eastern or central Europe and
together with local organizations,  provide a training-program and
workshops for doctors all around the country while actually providing
services and implementing an advocacy campaign.
The next project with a ship is now planned to take place in April/may

Although we received a lot of on-line donations as a result of the pilot
project, we still need at least $250.000 in the next year In order to be
able to implement future actions. And as complications with the ships
owner during this project learned, it is very important to buy our own
ship. Any suggestions about how we can raise the needed funds are more
than welcome.

There is much more information about our activities at the regularly
updated Women on Waves website http://www.womenonwaves.org
and about the Irish project on http://womenonwaves.net .
But if you have any questions or would like to discuss the project
further, please feel free to contact us any time.

On behalf of Women on Waves, I thank you for your interest and, above
all, for your ongoing support of our efforts.


Rebecca Gomperts, MD
Email: gomperts {AT} womenonwaves.org
Tel: +31-20-465 0004
Fax: +31-20-772 3173

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