By docking their boat at harbours around the world, Dutch NGO Women on Waves allows women to skirt abortion laws by operating in international waters. On Friday the group arrived in Spain, to a particularly cold reception.
At about half past five on Friday afternoon, "Aurora" sailed into the port of Valencia. The Dutch NGO, which has been offering abortions to women on its "floating clinic" for several years, was met by about a hundred pro-life activists shouted "fascists!" and "murderers!", while a small motor boat tried to stop the vessel from mooring. Also on the quay: pro-abortion activists, and between them, a police barrier, and a group of surging journalists.
While the turbulent arrival took over the country's weekend headlines, women were welcomed aboard the controversial vessel, where Dutch laws reign. Abortion was legalised in 1985 in Spain, but only in the case of rape, malformation of foetus, or a threat to the physical or mental health of the woman. "Aurora" was planning to set sail yesterday. But to where? Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of the NGO, is yet to decide. Women on Waves has already graced the shores of Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Ecuador.
The boat arriving in the port of Valencia:
Posted on YouTube on october 18, byferaleyes13.
"Personally, I disagree with what Women on Waves does"
Javier Mesa Reig is a photographer who attended the event and wrote about it on his blog.
"There were a lot of groups waiting for the arrival of the boat. On one side, on the quay and the balconies, the anti-abortionists. On the other, the pro-abortionist ones, in particular Pilar Bardem, the mother of actor Javier Bardem. There must have been around 150 people on each side. There was a bit of tension between the two groups, with slogans, clapping and shouting. But it didn't go any further. The journalists exaggerated a bit. There were loads there - the event was given a lot of coverage in Spain.
In fact, the subject of abortion doesn't come up often here. The last time there was any real debate was in 1985 when it was legalised. In general, the left is in favour of abortion and the right is against it. The Mayor of Valencia, who's a member of the Popular Party, was against the arrival of the boat.
Personally, I disagree with what Women on Waves does. I find it too radical, which is why I entitled my post "Valencia dice si a la vida ante el barco pro-abortista" [Valencia says yes to life in face of the pro-abortion boat]. I don't think abortion should be synonymous with women's liberation. Anyway, Women on Waves didn't get the results they were hoping for in Valencia."
"Those who decided to come are very courageous"
Doctor Rebecca Gomperts founded Women on Waves in 1999.
"We weren't expecting such an eventful arrival. But in the end there were only about a hundred people protesting against us, while we had 500 on our side. When the little boat tried to stop us from mooring, we didn't understand at first who it was. We thought they were following port orders. But it wasn't the case in the end.
The next day, Friday 17th, we sailed to just past the limit of Spanish territorial waters, around 17 miles out, with three women on board. This morning, Monday, we only took one. It's not easy for them to make the step with all those people, it's very intimidating. Those who decided to come are very courageous.
Our goal during this campaign was to help get women's associations heard in proposing changes to the law. What we want in Spain is that abortions are free, that women don't need the approval of a doctor and, most importantly, that they're not criminalised for their choice."