Women on Waves will set sail for Portugal this afternoon to bring attention to the nation's restrictive abortion policies. According to Women on Waves, between 20,000– 40,000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place in Portugal each year. A Portuguese woman can only receive an abortion up to her 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, malformed fetus, or if the woman’s health is in serious danger.
Portugal is the only country in the European Union that actively prosecutes women and their doctors for illegal abortion, reports Women on Waves. Women who are found guilty of undergoing an abortion face up to three years in prison, and a person found guilty of performing the operation faces up to eight years. In July, three Portuguese women stood trial for allegedly undergoing illegal abortions. Earlier this year, 17 people, including seven women, were accused of undergoing illegal abortions and were later acquitted of breaking Portugal's strict abortion laws.
Women on Waves is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands whose mission is to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions throughout the world. The Dutch organization provides abortion and reproductive health services to women on a specially equipped ship. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts commissioned the construction of a mobile clinic suitable for placement on a ship that sails to countries where abortion is illegal. By sailing out to international waters, she is able to provide essential reproductive services to women legally, including non-surgical abortions, contraception, and counseling. Women on Waves sailed to Ireland in 2001 and Poland in 2003.